Australia

Orphaned children of Melbourne IS fighter 'to be brought back within months'

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Three Melbourne children whose now-dead parents joined the IS caliphate in Syria are expected to be brought back to Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to confirm media reports of the imminent return -- within months -- of three Australian children whose father died fighting for IS.

The three children, aged eight to 12, lived with their parents in Melbourne before the family went to Syria in the early days of the conflict, The Australian newspaper reports.

Australian officials are reportedly preparing for the first group of returning Australian children from refugee camps in northern Syria, sending DNA testing kits to consular posts in the region as part of identity checks.

Children currently in Syrian refugee camp

The identity of the children is not yet clear, although the ABC reports that the two girls and a boy, aged between six and 12, are the children of foreign fighter Yasin Rizvic and his wife Fauzia Khamal Bacha, who joined IS in 2014.

Their father was killed in battle and their mother died in unknown circumstances.

The children are believed to be in the al-Hol Syrian refugee camp, with authorities working to get them to Lebanon or Iraq to be flown back to Australia.

The eldest child is believed to have been born in Australia, with the two youngest thought to be born after the couple left Australia.

The children could be eligible for Bosnian citizenship based on their father's Bosnian heritage. Their mother was from Singapore. 

The children's situation is complicated by the fact that they have no family in Australia, although friends of the family have said they hope Bosnia and Australia can work together to transport the children from Syria. 

Bosnia is among several countries that have transported citizens from Syria. 

They are among 70 Australians - mostly women and children - believed to be in Syrian camps.

Aid organisations that work in the camps have called on the Australian government to repatriate the Australian women and children.

Yasin Rizvic attending a protest event in Melbourne in 2012.
Yasin Rizvic attending a protest event in Melbourne in 2012.
YouTube

'No Australian official to be put in danger'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to provide further details about any possible repatriation, citing national security.

"I'm not going into a commentary on what are very sensitive matters. These are issues that really do fall under the banner of national security in how they're handled."

He repeated comments he made previously that no Australian official would be putting themselves in danger to repatriate any children of Australian foreign fighters in conflict zones.

"I don't want to put at risk or compromise the safety of anyone. I certainly won't be doing that in relation to any Australian officials or others who are engaged in these issues.

"It's a very sensitive matter. We'll continue to manage it very carefully. And it's important that we don't compromise anything."

Last month, Mr Morrison softened his stance against the surviving children of Islamic State fighters, starting with the children of terrorist Khaled Sharrouf.

The children, a heavily-pregnant Zaynab, 17, Hoda, 16, and Hamza, 8, are being held in the al-Hawl camp after fleeing the last IS enclave of Baghouz.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton is seen at the Pine River Bowls Club in Bray Park, Brisbane, Tuesday, April 16, 2019 (AAP)
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said no Australian official would be put in harm’s way trying to extricate Australian citizens from northern Syria.
AAP

Mr Morrison said if the Sharrouf children can get to an Australian embassy, they will be given passports. Their return to Australia may be possible after the outcome of security and identity checks, he said

The grandmother of the Sharrouf children, Karen Nettleton, last month travelled to the al-Hawl Syrian camp in an attempt to arrange their return to Australia. 

Western nations are under pressure to repatriate the wives and children of foreign fighters, particularly after the fall of the last territory of IS in Syria,  Baghouz.   

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21 April: Kosovo brings back fighters, families of jihadists from Syria
21 April: Kosovo brings back fighters, families of jihadists from Syria
 

Sweden repatriated seven children of a Swedish-Norwegian couple Amanda Gonzales and Michael Skramo that died in Syria after joining IS. 

The grandfather of the children facilitated their return after travelling last month to the Iraq city of Irbil where the children has been transferred after living in a Syrian refugee camp. 

Patricio Galvez said his grandchildren - aged between 1 and 8 - will be taken care of by social services now that they are in Sweden. 

Additional reporting: AAP

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