Australia didn't act in good faith over woman detained in Turkey: NZ

WELLINGTON • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accused Australia of abdicating its responsibilities by "unilaterally" cancelling the citizenship of a woman detained in Turkey over alleged links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

The Turkish authorities on Monday said they had caught three New Zealanders - two children and a 26-year-old woman alleged to be a member of ISIS - trying to enter Turkey illegally from Syria.

The woman had held New Zealand and Australian citizenships, but the Australian government cancelled her citizenship, Ms Ardern told reporters in Wellington.

"It is wrong that New Zealand should shoulder the responsibility for a situation involving a woman who has not lived in New Zealand since she was six," she said.

"(The woman) has resided in Australia since that time, has her family in Australia and left for Syria from Australia on her Australian passport."

Ms Ardern said Australia had "abdicated its responsibilities" by unilaterally cancelling the citizenship.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a news conference in Canberra: "My job is Australia's interests. That's my job. And it's my job as the Australian Prime Minister to put Australia's national security interests first. I think all Australians would agree with that."

He said he was scheduled to speak with Ms Ardern yesterday, but added that legislation passed in Parliament automatically cancels the citizenship of a dual citizen accused of being engaged in terrorist activities.

Ms Ardern urged Australia to consider the welfare of the woman's children. "These children were born in a conflict zone through no fault of their own," she said.

"Coming to New Zealand, where they have no immediate family, would not be in their best interests. We know that young children thrive best when surrounded by people who love them."

Ms Ardern said New Zealand was also engaging with the Turkish authorities over the issue.

The woman's case has been known to the Australian and New Zealand authorities for some time.

"I never believed the right response was to simply have a race to revoke people's citizenships... they did not act in good faith," she said.

Ms Ardern said her government has an obligation to its citizens regardless of the circumstances or offences committed, and that decisions would be driven by the fact that two small children "who did not make the choice of being born in a war zone" were involved.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2021, with the headline 'Australia didn't act in good faith over woman detained in Turkey: NZ'. Subscribe