Australia plans to change citizenship rules for 'suspects'

Australian government targets dual nationals suspected but not convicted of alleged terror offences

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Australia’s government plans to bring a new legislation to Parliament within weeks that will remove Australian citizenship from dual nationals who are suspected of joining militant groups.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the tough measures are required to protect Australia from those who are trying "to destroy us," according to a BBC report.

Australia believes that around 100 of its nationals are allegedly fighting in Iraq and Syria and around 50 percent of them are dual-citizens.  

The new legislation will provide the country’s immigration minister with the authority to remove Australian citizenship from dual-passport holders even if they are not convicted of an offence.

Australia is also planning to take custody of children from militants who fight overseas and is cancelling the passports of 100 people on national security grounds.

The plan will be subject to judicial review, but it has already created a controversy in the country. Some members of the cabinet voiced their concern about the process, especially those who have sole citizenship and will be stateless and have nowhere to go, which is prohibited by international law.

The new regulations were brought to the table after local media reports claimed the wife and children of Australian Khaled Sharrouf, who has fought with ISIS, are trying to return to Australia.

Sharrouf has dual citizenship but his wife, Tara Nettleton, has only Australian citizenship and is reportedly trying to return to Australia with her five children, despite the government's warning that she and her children could face charges for terrorist offences.

Experts say children should not be punished because of their parents' actions and criticise the government for "abandoning Australian children by revoking their citizenship."

Australia's Muslim community also believes the new draft law targets them.

"The Muslim community is under pressure. It already feels isolated and it is going to be further isolated by these Draconian measures," Kuranda Seyit, the secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, told the BBC.

TRTWorld and agencies