Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

ISIS supporters in Syrian camps beg Australian government for repatriation

Australia unlikely to rescue women and children from Al Hol camp

In this March 31, 2019, photo, women speak to guards at the gate that closes off the section for foreign families who lived in the Islamic State's so-called caliphate, at al-Hol camp in Hasakeh province, Syria. As Turkish troops invade northern Syria and the U.S. abandons its Kurdish allies, there are renewed fears of a prison break in the camp that could give new life to the extremist group. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
In this March 31, 2019, photo, women speak to guards at the gate that closes off the section for foreign families who lived in the Islamic State's so-called caliphate, at al-Hol camp in Hasakeh province, Syria. As Turkish troops invade northern Syria and the U.S. abandons its Kurdish allies, there are renewed fears of a prison break in the camp that could give new life to the extremist group. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Two former partners of ISIS fighters have sent audio messages to the Australian government asking for help as the Syrian army advances on the Al Hol camp in northern Syria.

In one message, the Australian mother of two young children sobs: “Until now Australia hasn't done anything for us."

“We understand the world has hate but we're asking just as regretful humans, don't let us fall into the hands of the regime, please."

The woman is among 66 Australians, including 46 children, living in the camp for the children and former partners of ISIS fighters.

Syrian government soldiers and a pro-Damascus militia arrived in the region yesterday as part of a deal with Kurdish leaders to deter the Turkish invasion.

The soldiers arrived on trucks with some residents cheering them on, but for the occupants of Al Hol camp it is a frightening development, as the Syrian army has executed ISIS prisoners.

The Australian government has indicated that it will not take home the women and children.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told radio station 2GB that some of the women in the camp are as “hard-core” as the fighters and “have the potential and capacity to come back and cause a mass-casualty event”.

Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the government would not risk Australian personnel to rescue the women and children.

Ms Reynolds refused to comment on the US decision to abandon their agreement with their Kurdish allies and leave the areas where the Australian women and children are being kept.

International relations expert Prof Mark Beeson, from the University of Western Australia, told The National that Australian authorities should do “what they can” to move the Australian civilians out of the area.

Prof Beeson said the Government should “show a bit of gumption and leadership”.

“The kids aren’t to blame for having dopey parents," he said.

Prof Beeson said diplomatic pressure and “a progressive coalition of the willing to put pressure on all parties” were the options for taking the 66 Australians to safety.

Opposition spokeswoman Kristina Keneally told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the Government should act to rescue the 46 children, acknowledging that some of the women would face criminal charges in Australia.

“I have met with family members of people who have children or grandchildren in Al Hol refugee camp," Ms Keneally said.

"Some of these people are genuine victims. Others are people who took a decision to go over and fight with ISIS. Nonetheless, the innocent children are victims of their parents’ decisions.

"What I would encourage is that the government continues to work with the families and with our national security agencies to consider what, if anything, can be done to extract these children to safety.

"And bearing in mind some of the adults would and should face criminal charges should they return to Australia.”

Updated: October 21, 2019 01:08 PM

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