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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Australia wants it easier to strip extremists of citizenship

A terrorism conviction would be enough to lose citizenship under proposed legislation

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will introduce new laws allowing the government to strip citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism EPA
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will introduce new laws allowing the government to strip citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism EPA

Australia revealed plans on Thursday to increase government powers to strip citizenship from extremists and to control the movements of Australians who return home from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the contentious bills, some of which he wants passed in the final two-week parliamentary session of the year that will begin on Monday. He also wants to pass draft cyber security laws that would force global technology companies such as Facebook and Google to help police unscramble encrypted messages sent by criminals.

Rights advocates have raised privacy concerns about the cyber security bill which is currently being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.

"People who commit acts of terrorism have rejected absolutely everything that this country stands for," Mr Morrison said.

The extremist threat to Australia was highlighted two weeks ago when a Somali-born Australian, whom police say was inspired by ISIS, fatally stabbed one man and injured two others before being shot dead by police in Melbourne.

This week, three Australian men of Turkish descent were charged with planning an ISIS-inspired mass-casualty attack in Melbourne which would likely have happened over the busy Christmas period.

Nine convicted extremists and Australians suspected of fighting alongside extremists overseas have had their Australian citizenship revoked since 2015. The law changes only apply to dual nationals so that losing Australian citizenship does not render a suspect stateless.

The proposed changes would further loosen the rules concerning the circumstances in which citizenship can be revoked. The amendments would do away with a requirement that a dual national convicted of a terrorism offense would need to be sentenced to at least six years in prison. The conviction itself would be enough to lose Australian citizenship.

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The threshold for the government determining that an Australian was a dual national or entitled to citizenship of another country would also be lowered.

Mr Morrison said there would be "no need to go around looking for paperwork" to prove a second nationality.

Australia also plans to introduce a version of Britain's Temporary Exclusion Orders that were introduced in 2015 and can prevent British fighters from returning home from war zones for up to two years.

Under the Australian regime, Australian fighters who return home would have to comply with conditions such as reporting to police, curfews and restrictions on what technologies they can use.

Mr Morrison accepted that the Temporary Exclusion Orders legislation might not be passed into law until next year.

Mr Morrison's new drive against extremists has angered some Muslim community leaders.

He accused senior Muslim leaders on Wednesday of "continuing down a path of denial" after they refused an invitation to a meeting scheduled for Thursday to discuss the extremist threat.

Some Australian Muslims were critical when Mr Morrison said after the Somali-born Australian's rampage that "radical, violent, extremist Islam" posed the greatest threat to Australia's national security.

They felt the wider Muslim community had been blamed when Mr Morrison said Islamic leaders "must be proactive, they must be alert and they must call this out".