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Australia rules out repatriating Islamic State group widows, orphans during Syria ceasefire

Canberra refuses to actively retrieve more Australian orphans [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 October, 2019

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Australia's foreign affairs minister has ruled out carrying out further repatriation operations for the family members of IS fighters, citing the security situation in northern Syria.

Australia has ruled out retrieving dozens of family members of Islamic State group fighters from refugee camps during the cease-fire between Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria, citing safety concerns.

Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton said on Friday the situation remained too dangerous to send Australian troops or officials into the war-torn nation.

When asked about retrieving Australian women and children from Syrian refugee camps, he said: "No, the advice is consistent to us, and that is, that there's not an opportunity, given the danger there at the moment.”

Despite retrieving some orphans, Dutton said Canberra refuses to actively bring more back to Australia.

Read more: How will Europe deal with returning Islamic State group fighters?

“We've been able to bring back some orphans, as you know, but we're not in a position where we're able to go into those camps, and we've very clear about the fact that it's a tragedy that parents, mothers and fathers, made a decision to take children into a theatre of war, but we've been very clear, we're not going to put Australian Defence, Foreign Affairs or Home Affairs personnel or other agencies staff at risk. It's a very difficult situation."

He added he is hopeful the recent ceasefire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in northern Syria will lead to lasting peace.

"Well, I hope that, like every observer of this, that there can be peace and people can return back to their villages. We know that in the original Syrian conflict there were about five million people who were displaced. So, this has always been a very difficult part of the world, we know that, and I hope that conflict can come to an end as soon as possible."

About 46 Australian women and children who fled IS-held territory are being held at the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria.

Eight Australian children of two slain IS group fighters were removed from Syria in June, in Australia's only organised repatriation from the conflict zone.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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