Australia

Save the Children urges Australia's future PM to bring children of IS fighters home

0:00

Save the Children has penned an open letter to the future prime minister to ensure the children of foreign fighters are brought to Australia.

Advocacy group Save the Children has demanded the Australian government bring children of foreign IS fighters home, in an open letter addressed to the future Prime Minister.

The letter, published in The Saturday Paper, calls for an end "to the war on children". 

"All children who have lived under ISIS control have experienced horrific events - violence, acute deprivation and bombardment," the letter reads.

“Many have lost loved ones. And now they languish in dangerous camps in north-east Syria, where children are sick and malnourished, and there isn’t enough food to go around.

Muslim women in Syrian camp
Displaced Syrian women and children at the Internally Displaced Persons camp of al-Hol in al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria.
AFP

"No one is defending the actions of their parents, who must face justice. But we must defend the rights of every child."

Chief executive Paul Ronalds, who authored the letter, said Australians needed to know where Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten stood and "if they will act on their word if elected on 18 May".

"The shift in rhetoric from the leaders of both major political parties is encouraging, but words alone will not bring these children home," he said.

On Saturday, Mr Shorten said he didn't rule out bringing the children of IS fighters to Australia and added that they shouldn't be held responsible for what their parents did.

Khaled Sharrouf’s remaining children who are trapped in Syria
Australian IS fighter Khaled Sharrouf’s remaining children who are trapped in Syria.
SBS

“I think we have to work out the best approach for the children’s welfare. So, that’s not a ‘no’," he said, in a press conference on the Central Coast.

"I don’t know all the circumstances, I don’t know if they have family here to look after them but I don’t blame the kids for their parents’ stupidity.”

Earlier this month, Mr Morrison softened his stance on the issue following appeals from the children of Australian terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, who are being held in a refugee camp in northern Syria. 

The Prime Minister said he was working with the Red Cross to remove the children from Syria, but added that he would not risk lives in the process. If the children were able to get to an Australian embassy, he promised that they would be given passports.

"When they might be in a position to return to Australia, we will cooperate with that process," he said.

"We would follow the normal processes for issuing of travel documents after all those other matters have been addressed."

Save the Children believe there are more than 2500 foreign children living in Syrian camps.

With the collapse of the last IS bastion in Syria last month, several governments have been grappling with the problem of what to do with captured jihadist fighters from their country, the women who married them and their children.

"Australia has the power to repatriate these children and support their recovery; their reintegration into our society," the letter continues.

"We call on the future Prime Minister to uphold these values and immediately bring the Children of Australian foreign fighters home."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch