Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said it was pleasing to see reports that the Government was working with the Red Cross to repatriate the children of Khaled Sharrouf, however this support must be extended to all Australian children caught up in the crisis.
“Today we read reports of the dire circumstances in which many Australian children find themselves in in North East Syria, including the heavily pregnant daughter of Khaled Sharrouf reported to be suffering malnutrition, dehydration and shrapnel wounds that are not healing,” Mr Ronalds said.
“It is pleasing to see the Prime Minister say ‘normal processes’ will be followed when it comes to issuing of travel documents for these children. However, we want to make sure this support is extended to all Australian children languishing in camps in North East Syria.
“This is a tragedy not of the children’s making but of their parents who have manifestly failed in their primary duty to care for them and make decisions in their best interests. These children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.
“Bringing them back can be achieved without putting any more Australian lives at risk.
“Scores of children under the age of five have now died either en route or on arrival in the camps, and there are unconfirmed reports that several foreign children have died in recent weeks. Many children are sick and malnourished.
“It is entirely within the Australian Government’s power to bring all these children home and we urge them to do so immediately. In this way they can be provided with the best support and care possible to aid in their recovery from their distress, to which no child should ever be subjected.”
Save the Children calls on Australia, and other countries of origin, to take responsibility for their citizens, especially children, and to follow the lead of countries like France, which recently repatriated five orphaned children from North East Syria.
Save the Children estimates there are more than 3,500 foreign children, including Australian citizens, living in Syrian camps for former IS members.
For media inquiries contact Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917 or Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.