Save the Children welcomes the safe repatriation of 13 innocent Australian children and their mothers to home shores after spending years in camps in North East Syria.
Save the Children highly commends the strong leadership of the Albanese Government in upholding its moral obligation and international legal requirement to bring these children home, along with four women.
For more than three years, the children had been trapped in squalid camps, where many of them were living in uninsulated tents in extreme weather, with limited access to nourishing food, no formal schooling and inadequate healthcare.
Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler said:
“Today is a long-awaited and critical milestone for these children and their families.
“These children can now leave the horrors of war behind them, focus on recovery from their ordeal and look forward to a childhood free from fear and violence at home in Australia.
“While today we celebrate their arrival home, we know there are still over 30 Australian children stuck in camps in Northeast Syria. We urge the government to repatriate them without further delay. We will not rest until every Australian child is brought home.
“For those children who are returning to Australia, they will now face a long road ahead to recover from any traumatic experiences and reintegrate into society. For the repatriated women, this process may also include facing Australia’s judicial system, in cases where there is evidence that any crimes have been committed.
"We congratulate the Albanese Government for its strong leadership and for doing the right and just thing by these innocent children and their mothers, and the Australian public. They have given these children hope for their futures and rightly backed the robustness of Australia’s national security, judicial and resettlement systems to support their safe integration into Australian society.”
The repatriation of Australians comes as nations including Germany and the United Kingdom recently brought home citizens from Roj and Al Hol camps, in a move welcomed by Save the Children. Eight Australian children were also repatriated by the Morrison Government in 2019.
About 11,000 foreign children and women remain in Roj and Al Hol camps, where the risks to children have only become greater due to increasing violence and an outbreak of cholera across the region.
Only last month, a 6-year-old Russian child reportedly died after being run over by a truck in the Al Hol Annex camp, while other children recently witnessed their mother’s dead body abandoned by the side of the road as killings in the camp increased by 250% in the second quarter of this year.
Save the Children research from a year ago said that children left in the camps are “wasting away”, with crumbling healthcare and education services, and more than half of households in Roj being aware of child labour among children under the age of 11.
Lasting solutions are also desperately needed for thousands of Syrian and Iraqi children, who still face harsh conditions and a bleak future outlook in the camps.
Save the Children Australia has been campaigning for the repatriation of Australian citizens since 2019. The agency stands ready to assist state child support services and work with families to ensure these children are provided the support they need to resettle into the Australian way of life.
MEDIA CONTACT: Joshua Mcdonald on 0478010972 or firstname.lastname@example.org.