Saturday 1 October 2016

'Australians fighting in Syria will lose citizenship' says PM Tony Abbott

David Kearns

Published 23/06/2015 | 12:29

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Australians who engaged in terrorism will be stripped of their citizenship, under new laws aimed at preventing militants fighting overseas from returning home.

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Dual nationals who have gone overseas and joined a terrorist group will be deemed to have renounced their Australian citizenship under proposed new laws, said Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“We want to ensure that militants with dual nationality who fight overseas do not return to Australia,” he added.

Under the new laws, the government could also strip citizenship from dual nationals who engaged in terrorism inside Australia.

Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, two of Australia's most wanted Islamic State fighters, have reportedly been killed in drone strikes
Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, two of Australia's most wanted Islamic State fighters, have reportedly been killed in drone strikes

"If you are convicted of a terrorist offence, there will be an assumption that your Australian citizenship is forfeited, should you be a dual national," Mr Abbott said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"Given that we have a number of dual citizens currently in jail after terrorist convictions, [we are] considering whether it should have retrospective operation at least in those cases."

Mr Abbott said another review would consider what to do with people engaged in terrorism who were solely Australian nationals.

The government is to introduce the proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Act to parliament on Wednesday.

The new laws could be applied to up to half of the 120 Australians fighting in the Middle East with Islamic State.

Mr Abbott promised the new laws would not leave anyone stateless and did not exclude the role of the courts.

"This will enable a person who has lost his or her citizenship to seek legal redress," he said.

The new laws come as Australian officials work to verify reports that two of the country's most wanted Islamic State fighters, notorious for being pictured holding severed heads, have been killed.

The Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said there had been recent drone strikes in the area where the two are thought to have been killed but said she was still awaiting "absolute verification" they were dead.

"The likelihood of verification in relation to Mr Elomar is probably imminent, however in relation to Mr Sharrouf, we're still seeking to verify the reports," she said.

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