Paul Maley, The Australian, June 20, 2014
A proposal to strip dual nationals who fight in foreign conflicts of their Australian citizenship, a move that would mirror powers available in Britain, is an option the federal government would consider.
Tony Abbott yesterday vowed to “redouble’’ the government’s vigilance in the wake of the Islamist crisis in Iraq, monitoring fighters who have returned from the combat zone and preventing foreign jihadists from crossing the border.
As part of the ramped-up security push, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he was prepared to consider the British model that allows authorities to strip dual nationals of their passports, provided it does not render them stateless.
The power has been used to considerable effect during the Syria crisis, which has seen scores of Britons flock to jihad.
Mr Morrison said while the government was prepared to contemplate the idea, he labelled it an extreme measure. “Cancelling the citizenship of a dual citizen is a very extreme measure,’’ he said. “There are existing provisions within the citizenship act that deal with these sorts of things . . . and at this stage there are no formal proposals before the parliament.’’
The comments follow a recommendation by the federal government’s Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Bret Walker SC, who recommended the government consider the measure.
“The INSLM is concerned that the concept of dual citizenship raises issues of divided loyalties and does not see why, as a matter of policy, an Australian citizen should also be able to be a citizen of another country,” Mr Walker said in his report, tabled in parliament this week.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop yesterday confirmed that about 150 Australians had joined the fighting in Iraq and Syria, among them Khaled Sharrouf, a convicted terrorist who slipped out of Australia illegally last year and is fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
The Prime Minister said it would be a mistake for Australians to assume the crisis in the Middle East was confined to Iraq with “no consequences for the wider world’’.
“You have a terrorist army consolidating its hold over a large swath of Iraq and Syria with the intention presumably of creating a terrorist state with dangerous and unpredictable consequences for the region and for the wider world,’’ Mr Abbott said.
“So, this is a very serious situation.’’