Lawyer for four Australian families repatriated from Syria says the focus should be on their recovery rather than the prospect of being charged with terrorist offences.
Mustafa Heir, who is representing the four women and their 13 children who arrived in Sydney on Saturday, said he was involved in interviewing the women with authorities.
While he declined to comment on the nature of those discussions or whether they indicate the women will face charges, he said the families were cooperating with authorities.
“You’re talking about people coming back from hell on earth,” Hair said in a statement when asked about the prospect of the women being charged.
“The focus now needs to be on treating and treating these Australians.”
Haire said his clients, who also include some of the 40 or so women and children still in custody in Syria, would consider consent to control orders on a case-by-case basis.
The four families who were evicted first were described by the authorities as the most vulnerable. Their resettlement is coordinated in New South Wales government when they were repatriated to Sydney, where they lived before leaving Australia.
Women can be charged with crimes related to foreign invasion, despite many claiming that their husbands or families forced them to go to the “caliphate” or trick them.
Legislation introduced since 2014 has greatly simplified such prosecutions, but there remain only a handful of people convicted of traveling to Syria or Iraq – all of them men, most of whom are said to have planned to fight or aid a terrorist group. .
The repatriated women released a statement on Saturday saying they were “deeply grateful to be back home in Australia with our children”.
“We appreciate the difficulty and significant work that many people, including the Australian Government, have put in to bring us home,” the statement said.
“We want to express our regret for the trouble and hurt we have caused, especially to our families.
“We are prepared to do whatever the government asks of us to ensure the safety of our families and the Australian community, and we will cooperate fully with all Australian law enforcement agencies.”
The government is planning two more rescue missions in the coming weeks, with at least half of the remaining women and children planned to be resettled in Melbourne and the rest in Sydney.
Hare urged them to act quickly.
“Given the housing conditions [in the camp]reports of malnutrition and existing diseases, we are very cautious about the coming winter,” he said.
“We’re talking about a life or death situation here.”
Before the recent repatriation, both states had previously resettled two groups of orphans from separate families, with five children resettled in NSW and three in Victoria in 2019.
In each case, both parents died in the Middle East before US-backed Kurdish forces took control of Baghouz, the last remaining Islamic State fortress, in March 2019.
These children were repatriated by the former coalition government. In opposition, the coalition has slammed the recent mission, with shadow home secretary Karen Andrews saying it was “horribly” handled.
Home Affairs Minister Claire O’Neill dismissed the concerns, saying “at all times the focus was on the safety and security of all Australians and the safety of those involved in the operation”.
“In line with national security advice, the government has carefully considered a number of security, community and welfare factors in making the decision to repatriate.
“The decision to repatriate these women and their children was based on an individual assessment following detailed work by national security authorities.”