Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is pondering the government’s options for dealing with the children of terrorists seeking to return to Australia, but he is definite no Manus Island refugees will be allowed to go to New Zealand.
He noted the children of ISIS recruits, who may have a claim to Australian citizenship, were either taken to war zones by their parents or had been born there over the three years of the conflict.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has hailed his nation’s armed forces for achieving total victory with the “complete purging” of fundamentalist Islamist militia from his country’s territory.
That defeat raises the prospect of fighters returning to Australia, and also the question of the citizenship status of terrorists’ children born overseas and now orphaned.
“We are talking about the possible threat emerging because of what somebody has learnt, the trade-craft of terrorism overseas,” Mr Dutton told Sky News on Sunday.
“Bringing that back to Australia can result in the loss of many Australian lives.”
Mr Dutton also took aim at Bill Shorten for talking up New Zealand as an option for Manus Island refugees, saying the Opposition leader had not received a security briefing on the matter and was in no position to express an informed opinion.
Mr Shorten dined with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Auckland on Saturday, when her offer to take 150 refugees was high on the agenda. That offer has been roundly rejected by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Speaking to journalists before the Auckland parley with Ms Adern, Mr Shorten said the New Zealand offer was something worth a close look.
Mr Dutton on Sunday wouldn’t rule New Zealand out as a future option, but he argued that now is the wrong time to explore that option.
Some refugees who were potentially destined to leave detention under the arrangement with the US are saying they would rather go to New Zealand, he conceded.
“We don’t want to disrupt the arrangement we have got with the US,” Mr Dutton said.
“We don’t want people hopping on boats thinking they can get to New Zealand, stay there for a couple of years, become a citizen and then come to Australia.”
He said Australia’s border force had already stopped four vessels coming across the Torres Strait that were on their way to New Zealand.
“We have to be mindful that the risk has not gone away,” he said, before accusing Mr Shorten of scheming to open Australia’s borders if Labor wins the next election.
“Australians don’t want the people smugglers back in control over who comes to this country,” he said.