Fresh blow for Aussie ISIS brides, children

The Federal Court has rejected an appeal seeking to force the Australian Government to bring home women and children from Syrian refugee camps. Save the Children Australia
The Federal Court has rejected an appeal seeking to force the Australian Government to bring home women and children from Syrian refugee camps. Save the Children Australia

The Federal Court has upheld a previous judgment rejecting legal arguments that would bring Australian ISIS brides and their children home from a refugee camp in Syria.

On Tuesday morning, Justice Christopher Horan announced the court would dismiss an appeal on the case.

The court is of the view the appeal should be dismissed, I publish our reasons,” he said.

Over two days in early May, a panel of three judges heard the appeal brought by litigation guardian Save the Children Australia on behalf of 31 women and children at the Al-Roj camp in Northeast Syria.

The 11 Australian women and 20 children have lost their case in the Federal Court. Picture: Save the Children Australia
The 11 Australian women and 20 children have lost their case in the Federal Court. Picture: Save the Children Australia

Last November, Justice Mark Moshinsky rejected an initial application seeking the court issue a writ of habeas corpus — effectively requiring the Australian government to bring the group home.

The women, some of whom were children at the time, travelled to Syria to become brides of Islamic State fighters before the self-described caliphate collapsed in 2019.

Thirty-four women and children with Australian citizenship, or eligibility for citizenship, remain in the Al-Roj camp controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

Australian women and their children remain in the North East Syrian refugee camp. Picture: Save the Children Australia
Australian women and their children remain in the North East Syrian refugee camp. Picture: Save the Children Australia

Save the Children Australia had argued the government has a “legal and moral obligation” to act, while the Australian government argued AANES held “complete and unfettered discretion” over the detainees and therefore it couldn’t be compelled to repatriate them.

The judgment, by Chief Justice Debra Mortimer, Justice Geoffrey Kennett and Justice Horan, dismissed all grounds of appeal on Tuesday.

But they three judges said the deceive before the court demonstrates that if the government had the “political will” to do so, repatriations would be a relatively straightforward exercise.

Save the Children Australia chief executive Mat Tinkler said the organisation will now consider next steps in support of the women and children who have been detained in the camps for more than five years.

“Despite the ruling, we appeal to the Government to end this relentless limbo and finish what they started almost two years ago, by repatriating the remaining children and their mothers before it is too late,” he said.