WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned Australia for refusing to accept responsibility for a woman detained in Turkey with alleged links to the ISIL (ISIS) group.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ardern said the woman had held New Zealand and Australian citizenships previously but the Australian government had “unilaterally” cancelled her citizenship.
Turkish authorities claimed on Monday that the 26-year-old woman Shamima Begum was an ISIL “terrorist” and had been caught while “trying to enter our country illegally from Syria”.
In her statement, Ardern said it was wrong that Wellington should shoulder the responsibility for a situation involving a woman who has not lived in New Zealand since she was six and has resided in Australia since that time.
The woman’s family also lived in Australia and she had left for Syria from Australia on her Australian passport, the prime minister added.
“New Zealand, frankly, is tired of having Australia exporting its problems,” Ardern later told reporters. “If the shoe were on the other foot we would take responsibility, that would be the right thing to do and I ask Australia to do the same.”
Responding to the New Zealand leader’s comments, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters that his job was “to put Australia’s national security interests first”.
“The legislation that was passed through our parliament automatically cancels the citizenship of a dual citizen where they’ve been engaged in terrorist activities of this nature,” he said. “That happens automatically and that has been a known part of Australia’s law for some time.”
Morrison added that he would be discussing the issue with Ardern later on Tuesday.
The woman’s case has been known to Australian and New Zealand authorities for some time.
Ardern said that after Australia stripped Begum of her citizenship, she told Morrison that the decision was wrong.
“I never believed the right response was to simply have a race to revoke people’s citizenships … they did not act in good faith,” she said.
The New Zealand leader also noted the woman had been travelling with two children.
“The welfare of the children also needs to be at the forefront in this situation. These children were born in a conflict zone through no fault of their own,” Ardern said.
“We will be engaging with the Turkish authorities, and given there are children involved, their welfare will be top of mind in our response,” she added.