Australia plans to pass a law within weeks to give the government power to strip citizenship from dual nationals who are suspected terrorists even if they are not convicted of a crime, the prime minister said Tuesday.
More than 100 Australians are suspected to be fighting with the Islamic State movement and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Up to 50 percent of those fighters were estimated to be dual citizens, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
The amendments to the Citizenship Act would allow Islamic State supporters both overseas and at home to be treated the same as Australians who join foreign armies at war against Australia, Abbott said.
The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton would have the discretion to revoke Australian citizenship from dual nationals suspected of terrorism, even if they had been not been convicted of any offense, Abbott said. The decision would be subject to judicial appeal.
“There should be no difference in how we treat Australians who join a hostile army and those engaged in terrorism - both are betraying our country and don't deserve to be citizens of Australia,” Abbott said in a statement.
The amendment would bring Australian citizenship laws closer to those the United States, Canada, France and Britain, he said. No one was to be left stateless by losing their Australian citizenship.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Parliament that a 26-year-old Australian woman whom newspapers reported on Tuesday had abandoned her two children, aged 5 and 7, in Sydney this month to go to Syria and join the Islamic State movement was not an isolated case. There are an estimated 30 to 40 Australian women engaged with or supporting terrorists in the two countries, she said.
“I'm deeply pessimistic about the fate of this apparently troubled young woman, but I'm thankful she left her children in the safety of Australia and didn't put them in mortal danger as others have done,” Bishop told Parliament.
“It's simply incomprehensible that while streams of innocent young women and girls are desperately trying to get away from Daesh, young Australian women and girls are seeking to join them,” she added, referring to the Islamic State movement.
The government plans to spend 40 million Australian dollars ($31 million) on new intervention programs and community initiatives to prevent young Australians from leaving the country to join terror groups, she said.