Arrest warrants issued for Australians in Syria, including women with children in al-Hawl camp | Australia news


Arrest warrants have been issued for Australians accused of fighting for or supporting Islamic State, including women held in Syria’s al-Hawl camp.

As pressure builds on Australia to join other governments in repatriating women and children held in the massive, squalid camp, the Australian federal police have announced that they have obtained 42 arrest warrants for Australian men and women who have travelled to Syria “for alleged criminal offences against Australian law”.

Currently, 19 women and 47 children, most of them under five, are held in the al-Hawl camp for family members of Isis fighters.

Many of the children, living in tents, are suffering malnutrition and other illnesses. At least one Australian toddler has contracted severe frostbite, and will likely lose the fingers on her left hand as a result of the freezing cold.

The AFP has not provided details on how many of the Australian women have had arrest warrants issued against them.



Three-year-old Amirah, pictured, has contracted frostbite in al-Hawl camp.

“All of the women who are suspected to have travelled to the conflict zone are under investigation for a range of offences,” a spokesman said.

“All Australians believed to have travelled to the conflict zone are being investigated and the AFP will consider all relevant offences, capable of prosecution in Australia, in that investigation.”

Some of the women currently trapped in the camp are expected to face charges of travelling to a declared zone and supporting or joining a terrorist group.

Family members and human rights groups have been pushing for the Australian government to repatriate its citizens out of the al-Hawl camp as conditions there deteriorate, arguing that many of the women in the camp had been coerced or tricked into travelling to Syria, and that the children held there now for a year were innocent.

But the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, has said some of the Australian women in the camp were “hardcore” and “have the potential and capacity to come back here and cause a mass casualty event”.

The issuing of the warrants may pave the way for repatriation.

The AFP said warrants will only be served if the women return to Australia.

The women in al-Hawl have consistently said they would cooperate with police and the Australian criminal justice system, even volunteering to submit to control orders.

Across al-Hawl, where more than 60,000 women and children are guarded by Kurdish forces, conditions have grown steadily worse as Syria endures a freezing winter. Food runs short, violence including murder is common, children die regularly from illness, and others have been injured when tents catch fire.

Many observers have raised concerns it is acting as an incubator for extremism and, if left to languish, a potential site of resurgence for Isis.

The youngest Australian child held in al-Hawl is less than three months old, born on 30 November inside the camp. Australian children in the camp are suffering developmental disorders, malnutrition, chronic diarrhoea, seizures, rickets and asthma. Three-year-old Amirah will likely lose the fingers on her frostbitten left hand.

While other countries – including the UK, Germany, Denmark and France – have been repatriating their citizens, Australia has consistently refused to do so, saying it would not jeopardise Australian lives to rescue the Australians held in the camp.

But the Kurdish-led Syrian Defence Force has offered to aid the repatriation of foreign nationals; those forces have been taking foreign citizens to and across the Iraqi border, without the involvement of third country troops or diplomatic staff. The US government has also requested that Australia repatriate its nationals.

Sources in the camp say the logistics of repatriating foreign nationals are straightforward – and occurring regularly – but the Australian government lacks the political will to bring its citizens home.

The Save the Children deputy chief executive, Mat Tinkler, said there were no excuses left to delay bringing Australian women and children home from Syria.

“If offences have been committed, those responsible should be held accountable,” he said.

“Without question, the best place for those accused to face the full force of the law is here in Australia where we have a robust justice system.”

Tinkler said children in the camps were suffering.

“Children should not suffer for the crimes of their parents, even the children of those who may have committed the most heinous of crimes.



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