How Australia stripped alleged Isis fighter of citizenship without evaluating her case

Complete lack of due process:

New Zealand authorities are still refusing to comment publicly on the likely deportation from Turkey of Suhayra Aden, the former Australian-New Zealand dual citizen alleged by Turkish authorities to be an Islamic State terrorist.

But according to one report, it is likely New Zealand officials will eventually escort her from Turkey, along with her two children, aged two and five.

Aden was arrested in mid-February trying to enter Turkey from Syria. Her detention triggered a diplomatic row when it emerged that Australia had stripped the 26-year-old of her Australian citizenship, leaving New Zealand to deal with her predicament.

Born in New Zealand but having lived in Australia since she was six, Aden travelled to Syria on an Australian passport in 2014. Alleged to be involved with Isis, her Australian passport was cancelled in 2020. The timing of her actual loss of citizenship is less clear.

Media coverage has largely centred on New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s accusation that, in stripping Aden of her citizenship, Australia has “abdicated its responsibilities”.

Ardern was right. But what has been less well covered is how the Australian government disabled itself from making a decision – let alone an informed one – on that loss of citizenship.

Aden lost her citizenship automatically under a now-repealed law. That law deprived her of her citizenship without any Australian official evaluating her circumstances.

An automatic rule

Introduced under Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, the powers of citizenship deprivation were enacted in December 2015, early in the Malcolm Turnbull government. Automatic loss of Australian citizenship could occur if:

  • The person was aged over 14
  • They would not be rendered stateless (Aden’s New Zealand co-citizenship ensured this)
  • They had either fought for a declared terrorist organisation or engaged in “disallegient” conduct (defined with reference to various terrorist offences, though not incorporating key elements of those offences)

A person lost their Australian citizenship the instant the statutory conditions were met, irrespective of any official knowing this had occurred. Of course, officials could only act when they found out the relevant conditions had been met – but that might be years later, if ever.

Source: How Australia stripped alleged Isis fighter of citizenship without evaluating her case