Ardern lambasts Morrison for ‘abdicating responsibility’ over terror suspect

Sydney, Australia, Feb 16 (efe-epa).- New Zealand’s prime minister on Tuesday rebuked her Australian counterpart for ‘abdicating responsibility’ in revoking the passport of a dual citizen and terror suspect who has been detained in Turkey with two children.

On Monday, three New Zealand nationals were arrested trying to enter Turkey from Syria in Hatay’s Reyhanli district, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense reported.

“A 26-year-old woman named S.A. among those caught was identified as a DAESH [Islamic State] terrorist,” it added.

She was accompanied by two young children.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Tuesday that the dual Australian-New Zealand citizen had been known to the authorities of both countries for some time and she had raised the issue with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over which country the woman should eventually return to.

The prime minister said the woman had left New Zealand when she was six years old, had lived in Australia since then, had family there and left for Syria on an Australian passport.

But, recently the “Australian government unilaterally canceled her citizenship,” she said.

“Australia has abdicated its responsibilities,” Ardern said, adding that no one should be stripped of citizenship and rendered stateless, “especially where children were concerned.”

“These children were born in a conflict zone through no fault of their own. Coming to New Zealand, where they have no immediate family, would not be in their best interests. We know that young children thrive best when surrounded by people who love them,” she said.

Later, at a press conference in Canberra, Morrison was asked by a reporter what assurances he would give Ardern that revoking the passport had been in New Zealand’s interests as well as Australia’s.

“My job is Australia’s interests. That’s my job. It’s my job as the Australian Prime Minister to put Australia’s national security interests first,” he said.

“Australia’s interest here is that we do not want to see terrorists who fought with terrorist organizations enjoying privileges of citizenship, which I think they forfeit the second they engage as an enemy of our country.”

Morrison added he understood “the New Zealand government has some issues” with the law revoking citizenship to those engaging in terrorism, and that he would speak to Ardern in the afternoon.

The two countries have close ties, but it is not the first time the New Zealand prime minister has censured her Australian counterpart.

In a joint press conference in Sydney last February, Ardern lashed Morrison over deporting New Zealand criminals with no connection to the country, such as those who had moved to Australia when they were babies.

“Send back kiwis, genuine kiwis. Do not deport your people, and your problems,” she said. EFE-EPA


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