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Why we support bringing our kids home

21 September 2023, Impact of Our Work

Aussie children and their mothers have been stranded in North East Syrian camps for far too long

For more than four years, Australian children have been trapped in squalid camps in North East Syria, where many of them live in uninsulated tents in extreme weather, with limited access to nourishing food, no formal schooling and inadequate healthcare. These camps in North East Syria are no place for a child. 

While two groups of Australian children were repatriated from North East Syria in October 2022 and in 2019, there are still around 30 Australian children who remain in the camps along with their mothers. We are committed to advocating for them until every child is home and safe. Each day of government inaction has worsened conditions for these women and children, leaving them with no choice but to pursue legal action. As they cannot file it themselves while stranded in the camps, Save the Children Australia is acting as litigation guardian in the case. The formal request in the case is simple: that the Australian Government stand by its moral and legal obligation to repatriate its citizens immediately.

Your questions answered

We have received many questions from our supporters about our involvement in advocating for their return. We’re glad to provide some answers to questions we are often asked.

Why is Save the Children Australia taking the Australian government to court?

In June 2023, Save the Children filed a case in the Federal Court of Australia to repatriate Australian children and their mothers from camps in North East Syria. Save the Children Australia, acting as litigation guardian for 20 children and 11 women in the case, is formally requesting the Australian Government to stand by its moral and legal obligation to repatriate its citizens immediately. We have worked at length to engage with the Australian Government on this issue, to prevent it from ever coming to court, but the legal case is the result of a lack of other options for these innocent children. The case will progress to hearing in late September.

How much money is this costing Save the Children, shouldn't that money be spent on programs?

The entire legal team working on this case for the women and children are acting pro bono. They are generously providing legal assistance without charge to Save the Children. Save the Children provides support to children and their mothers who remain trapped in the camps, and to children who have been repatriated from North East Syria – as we do for vulnerable children around the world.

Why should we bring the children home? 

All children are innocent, and the camps are no place for a child. Almost all these children are under 12 years of age. Many children are sick, injured and poorly nourished. No one is defending the alleged actions of their parents, who must face justice if suspected of wrongdoing. But all children who have lived under ISIS control have experienced horrific events – violence, depravation and bombardment. Irrespective of what you think of their parents, the children who have languished in these camps are innocent. They shouldn’t be punished for any alleged actions of their parents or be separated from their mothers. Australia has the power to safely repatriate these children, and their mothers, and support their recovery at home.  

Why are these children in the camps in the first place? 

Their parents were associated with ISIS in some way – the parents may have joined ISIS voluntarily or by force, or they may have been groomed and recruited as children themselves. Some of these children left Australia with their parents, while others were born in Syria. But most importantly, these children are in Syria through no fault of their own and are Australian citizens who deserve to come home. 

Australian children remain trapped in deplorable conditions in camps in North East Syria.
Photo: Save the Children.

Why are we focusing on these children when kids in Australia need help?

At Save the Children, we believe every child deserves a chance at a better life, no matter where they live or who their parents are. We work across the world, wherever there are children who need our support, including in Australia where our programs are delivered by Save the Children's Australian service delivery division, 54 reasons. You can find out more about the work we do in Australia here.

Fearless for children

Save the Children was founded by an amazing woman more than 100 years ago. A courageous humanitarian, human rights activist and social reformer, Eglantyne Jebb devoted her life to fighting for children's rights. Her activist heart beats strong every day in the way we operate – fearlessly working for and alongside children. We will not stop in our efforts to bring innocent children back home to safety, from Syria and other areas of conflict in the world.

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