Scott Morrison has opened the door to the children of ISIS fighters and jihadi brides returning to Australia, conceding they cannot be held responsible for the sins of their parents.
But the jihadi brides may be locked out of ever returning, with Australia considering following Britain’s approach of banning the mothers returning but offering safe haven for the children.
The Prime Minister’s compassionate approach on the children follows confirmation that Australia’s first jihadi bride has been found alive and revealed that the children of notorious terrorist Khaled Sharrouf are alive and have survived the fall of Islamic State in Syria.
The woman, Zehra Duman, fled Australia for Syria five years ago to marry Australian Islamic State fighter Mamdouh Abdullatif.
The ABC has revealed she filmed a video message for the grandmother of her three remaining children – Zaynab, 17, Hoda, 16 and Hamze, 9.
“They’re fine and they’re alive … I don’t know if they’re going to leave or not. I haven’t kept in contact with them so I don’t know,” she said.
Asked if he will pursue the prosecution of Ms Duman, Mr Morrison said the case was “complex”.
“This will be a very complex case and Australia will make decisions consistent with our national security interests,” the Prime Minister said.
“Obviously the issue of the children involved is also a very sensitive one.
“The children can’t be held responsible for the crimes of their parents.
“They are in a very dangerous part of the world and Australia is not in a position to offer any safe passage for people who are in that part of the world.
“And that is very concerning for the fact that there are children involved in this and their parents, Khaled Sharrouf in particular who committed despicable crimes, have placed their children in harm’s way.
“So look, we will deal with that issue sensitively but we must remember that both parents, including Khaled Sharrouf’s wife, committed crimes being where they were and doing what they were doing.”
Khaled Sharrouf’s wife, Tara Nettleton, is dead. But her children are very much alive, Ms Duman said.
In the UK, the newborn baby of Shamima Begum could be allowed to live as a British citizen and could return to the UK despite the teenage mother losing her citizenship.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament that the child could live in Britain.
“Children should not suffer, so if a parent loses their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child.”
Hundreds of babies were born to foreign fighters and jihadi brides during Islamic State’s reign of terror.
ASIO has already spent years warning about the potential return of these children, who experts believe will be highly traumatised by what they have witnessed and could pose a terrorism threat to Australia in the future.