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Australia must urgently repatriate children of Australian foreign fighters as Save the Children seeks clarity on government action

With dozens of Australian children of foreign fighters continuing to languish in dangerous camps in North East Syria, Save the Children has written to the Prime Minister seeking greater transparency around Australia’s repatriation efforts
18 April 2019

It is believed as many as 70* Australian children are among almost 7,000 foreign children living in appalling conditions in the camps, as highlighted on Monday’s Four Corners program.

“The situation is urgent and cannot wait until after the election. Australian children are living in the most appalling circumstances, and their lives are at stake,” said Save the Children’s Director of Policy and International Programs, Mat Tinkler.

“All children who have lived under ISIS control have experienced horrific events like violence, acute depravation and bombardment. They are the victims of the terrible decisions by their parents and they all deserve to be brought home. 
 
Many are sick, pregnant or injured and require urgent medical attention, which is simply not available in the camps. It is vital that the Government provides an update on the actions they are taking to repatriate all Australian children caught up in the crisis.”
 
In his letter to Prime Minister Morrison, Mr Tinkler writes that Australia is under “both a moral and legal obligation” to take all necessary steps to repatriate the children, and points out that countries such as France, Belgium, Kazakhstan and Sudan have been able to bring children home.

He also asks whether the Government has been in contact with the Kurdish Self Administration in Syria, which has oversight of the camps and is responsible for releasing foreign children.

The letter offers Save the Children’s support, stating the organisation “stands ready to support Australia in helping meet the needs of these children.”

Save the Children is working in the Al-Hol camp; monitoring and screening new arrivals to identify those with urgent needs, distributing winter kits, food, jerry cans, heaters and other items, setting up mobile Child Friendly Spaces, supporting unaccompanied and separated children, and providing case management services, health referrals, basic education services.

There are nearly 7,000 children of foreign nationalities in camps in North East Syria, of which more than 6,400 are under the age of 12 and almost half are below the age of 5.

In its centenary year, Save the Children will launch a global campaign calling on all responsible governments, including Australia, to do more to stop the war on children. Visit www.stopthewaronchildren.org.au to find out more. 

For media inquiries contact Jess Brennan on 0421 334 918.

*According to The Australian, 22 Feb 2018, ‘Aussie ISIS baby and wife of dead terrorist back home

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