Plan to rescue women and children trapped in ‘one of the worst places in the world’

Australia prepares to bring home women, children from Syria

Dozens of women and children in Syria who are “trapped in one of the worst places in the world” will be extracted and returned to Australia after years languishing in detention camps.

There were multiple media reports on Monday of moves to rescue some 20 women and 40 children who have been living in desperate conditions in the al-Hawl and Roj camps in the country’s north-east.

They are the widows, sons and daughters of Islamic State combatants who died or are in jail. Many of the women say they were tricked into travelling to Syria, some when they were just teenagers.

The 60 women and children in total have been trapped in Syria since the fall of the so-called Islamic State in 2019.

The women are Australian citizens and the children, most of whom are under the age of six, were either born in Iraq or Syria.

Save the Children says the youngsters are poorly nourished and suffering from untreated wounds and some have never experienced the outside world.

The al-Hol camp is described as one of the worst places in the world for children. Photo: Getty

Federal frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said it was important the repatriated children received the support they need upon their arrival.

“We have about 40 Australian kids living in one of the most dangerous places on earth in a refugee camp,” she told the Seven Network.

“Some of the women, the mothers, were taken there as little more than children themselves and married off to [Islamic State] fighters. Some of them were tricked, some of them were forced to go there.

“When they come back to Australia, it’s going to be very important that the children, in particular, receive counselling.”

Ms Plibersek said there would be an expectation that security organisations would stay in contact and monitor those repatriated.

In 2019, Australia launched a secret rescue mission to repatriate eight Australian orphans.

However, the former Morrison government later said it was in no rush and each rescue had to be dealt with on a ‘case-by-case basis’.

Then-foreign minister Marise Payne cited security concerns.

“The repatriation of any people in Syria in those contexts at the moment is very, very difficult,” Senator Payne said in 2019.

“As far as individuals are concerned and in some cases families, we are assessing each of those cases on their merits, but our first duty is of course to protect Australia and Australians.”

On Monday, opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said it appeared the security situation had changed to allow for the repatriation after the reported mission.

But he added that anyone who had broken the law, such as going to declared zones, to which the Australian government had banned visits, should face prosecution.

“If they knowingly went to a declared area then they’ve broken the law,” he told Sky News.

“If they have broken the law, yes they should be charged.”

Mr Tehan called on the Albanese government to continually monitor the women and children and ensure no one has been radicalised.

“It’s too early at this stage to tell whether the right procedures, measures, laws are going to be abided by,” he said.

“Keeping Australians safe has to be the No.1 priority of any government.”

The situation in the camps is becoming increasingly desperate. Photo: Getty

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie questioned why the report had become public before the mission was complete.

“This is actually quite surprising by ASIO to say that they’re going to do this when they haven’t done it yet,” she told the Nine Network.

She also questioned why the government hadn’t been able to bring over Afghan interpreters facing prosecution by the Taliban for helping allied forces during the war.

“They seem to have given up on [them],” she said.

Save the Children CEO Matt Tinkler told the ABC there was no need to be concerned about security, and the women had offered their full co-operation.

Mr Tinkler said he was encouraged by the reports that they would finally be able to escape the harsh conditions in Syira.

“For more than three years, these children have been trapped in one of the worst places in the world to be a child and their situation has been growing increasingly desperate,” he told the ABC.

“I saw these conditions first hand when I travelled to Roj camp in North East Syria in June.

“Australian children are poorly nourished, suffering from untreated shrapnel wounds and the situation is impacting their mental health. They are just hanging on.”

In 2019, The New Daily spoke to the father of an Australian woman living with her children who warned time was running out to get them to safety.

Kamalle Dabboussy feared he may never see his daughter Mariam or his grandchildren again.

“If they don’t act soon there will be a preventable impact on those women and children. A preventable injury, death or illness,” he said at the time.

“There are threats from ISIS women, there are threats from disease, threats from the weather, threats from outside the camp, and threats with the geopolitical situation.

“To leave them there would mean extrajudicial punishment for what reason? They’re not being charged, there is no legal basis for their detention.”

-with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.