‘Last resort’: Australian women, children in court bid to force repatriation from Syrian camp

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A group of women and their children plan to take the Australian government to court in a bid to be freed from Syrian detention camps, it was reported on Sunday.

Of the 40 Australian mothers and children being held in the Roj camp in northeastern Syria, 17 women and their nine children will file a “writ of habeas corpus” in Australia’s federal court in Melbourne on Monday, the Observer reported.

They argue that, as Australian citizens, they have the right to return to Australia.

They also contest that their detention is arbitrary, and that Canberra has “effective control” of their detention in the camp and, therefore, has the power to set them free, because the Syrian Democratic Forces that run the camp would release them on request.

Save the Children Australia, which is acting as the women and children’s litigation guardian, said the legal action was “a last resort,” with Mat Tinkler, its CEO, previously calling Roj camp “one of the worst places in the world to be a child.”

The women are the wives and widows who bore the children of dead or jailed Daesh fighters. Most have been in the camp for more than four years.

Earlier this week, an Australian child living in a Syrian detention camp wrote to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, pleading to be brought home.

In 2019, eight orphaned children, including a pregnant teenager, were successfully returned to New South Wales and, in October last year, four women and 13 children were also rescued from Roj.

The Australian government made a commitment to repatriate more women and children, but has not carried out any further relocations.

“The repatriations last October raised the remaining children’s hopes that they, too, would soon be out of harm’s way. Instead, they feel they have been abandoned by their country and are losing hope for the future,” Tinkler said.

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