Australia set to strip citizenship for terror links

Australia says it will introduce new laws this week to strip dual nationals linked to terrorism of their citizenship, but backed away from putting the power in the hands of a single minister

SYDNEY, (Australia) – The Government will strip Australian citizenship from dual nationals who engage in terrorism.

The government said changes to the Australian Citizenship Act would be introduced to parliament on Wednesday.

The new laws could be applied to up to half of the 120 Australians fighting in the Middle East with Islamic State (IS), said Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“We want to ensure terrorists who are dual nationals are prevented from returning to Australia and dual nationals who engage in terrorism within Australia can be removed, where possible.

 “The legislation will update the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to ensure dual nationals who serve or fight for terrorist groups, or engage in terrorism-related conduct inspired by terrorists groups, automatically lose their Australian citizenship,” Mr Abbott said in a statement released on Tuesday.

This Government’s highest priority is to keep the community safe.

The Act will also be amended to ensure dual nationals who are convicted of specified terrorism-related offences automatically lose their Australian citizenship.

“Dual nationals who engage in terrorism are betraying their allegiance to this country and do not deserve to be Australian citizens,” PM Abbott made clear.

“Where dual nationals have been convicted of terrorism-related offences and therefore lose their citizenship, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection can grant an exemption if there is a law enforcement or security imperative.

These provisions will not leave a person stateless and do not exclude the role of the courts. This will enable a person who has lost his or her citizenship to seek legal redress” he added.

“The changes modernise our current laws, which strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they serve in a foreign army at war with Australia. The world has changed so our laws should change accordingly.”

These new laws will be another measure to counter the growing terrorist threat. Since last September, there have been two terrorist attacks inspired by the Daesh death cult. Authorities have disrupted six planned attacks. In only nine months, 23 Australians have been arrested in counter-terrorism operations – as many as the total number of prior terrorism-related convictions from 2001.

The Government will ask the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) to inquire into the Bill and report back to Parliament in early August.

The views of the PJCIS together with feedback from the public consultation process about citizenship more generally will give the Government a sound basis for deciding on further legislation.

The government plans to introduce the new legislation into parliament within weeks with the decision to strip citizenship at Canberra’s discretion.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the new powers would apply to dual nationals who fight with or support jihadists such as Islamic State (ISIS) group or so-called lone wolves who pose a threat on home soil.

But the government backed away from removing citizenship from second-generation Australians. Under that scenario, such nationals linked to terror groups would have been forced to take on the citizenship of their parents’ birth countries.

“The changes will be consistent with our international legal obligation not to leave a person stateless. There will also be safeguards, including judicial review, to balance these powers,” said Abbott.

“These new powers are a necessary and appropriate response to the terrorist threat. They modernise our laws and bring them closer to those of Britain, Canada, France, the United States and other countries.”

The announcement came as a Sydney mother reportedly abandoned her two children and fled to Syria for a new life under Islamic State, becoming one of more than 100 Australians who have joined the jihadists. At least 30 have been killed.

The government said it was deeply disturbed by the revelations and was monitoring the situation closely.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph said Jasmina Milovanov, a 26-year-old Muslim convert, left her children, aged five and seven, with a babysitter earlier this month and never returned.

It cited her ex-husband as saying she sent a text message telling him she was in Syria.

“The only thing I can think about is my children. I can’t believe she left these two beautiful children. My son was saying in the days afterwards that he hoped ‘my mum is OK’,” said the husband, who was not named.

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