Save the Children welcomes the High Court’s ruling today that stripping dual nationals of their Australian citizenship is unlawful.
The decision has major implications for the rights of children, and helps to better protect the rights of dependent children, including the 47 Australian children trapped in Al Hol and Al Roj camps in Syria.
The High Court ruled that the decision by then Minister for Home Affairs minister in July 2021 to remove citizenship from a Turkish-Australian man, who was imprisoned in Syria for terrorism offences, was unconstitutional.
Today’s legal ruling invalidates the powers of the Minister for Home Affairs to revoke a person’s citizenship under section 36B of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth), which also applies to children aged 14 to 18.
Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler said the court ruling would help restore the rights of Australian children.
“The power for Australia’s Home Affairs Minister to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals for suspected terrorism-related conduct or convictions is an abrogation of Australia’s responsibilities and is not in the best interests of dependent children,” he said.
“The children languishing in camps in Syria are some of the most vulnerable in the world and should not be made to pay for any alleged actions of their parents.
“We’re aware of cases where decisions by the Australian Government to revoke an adult’s citizenship have effectively left children stateless.
“Both these innocent dependents – as well as any children accused or convicted of criminal activity – have the fundamental right to retain their Australian citizenship.
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has been clear. States may not deprive a child of his or her nationality on any ground, regardless of the status of his or her parents.
“Today’s court ruling is a welcome step in helping restore the rights of all Australian children.”
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Conventions on Statelessness, Australia has legal obligations to prevent children from being or becoming stateless. Lack of any nationality has a profound impact on the ability of children to realise their basic rights, including rights to education, healthcare and freedom of movement. In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called out the infringement of these laws on the rights of children, recommending the Australian government revoke laws that allow children to lose their citizenship.
Save the Children made a submission to the PJCIS Committee Review of the Australian Citizenship renunciation by conduct and cessation provisions of the Australian Citizenship Act 2017 in July 2019, to the PJCIS Committee review of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019 in October 2019 and a supplementary submission in February 2020.
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