Australian authorities are preparing to repatriate more than 60 Australian widows and children of Islamic State fighters from detention camps in Syria.
Officials insist the detainees will be put under surveillance when they are repatriated and that the women have agreed to be subject to control orders.
More than 20 Australian women and some 40 children are being held at the al-Hawl and Roj detention camps in north-eastern Syria. They are the widows, sons and daughters of dead or imprisoned Islamic State militants.
Australian officials have said it was unlikely all would be brought out at once and that several rescue missions could be needed.
Many of the women have insisted they were tricked or pressured by their husbands into travelling to Syria.
But in Australia, opposition lawmakers believe the repatriation of individuals who could have been radicalized poses an unnecessary risk. There are also concerns about the financial costs of supervision and surveillance by the police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, known as ASIO.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra Tuesday that the Australian government must provide specific details of the rescue plan.
“We need to understand how it is with limited resources ASIO and the Australian Federal Police can provide the guarantees to keep the Australian public safe,” he said. “The prime minister needs to provide the detail and provide the assurance to the Australian public.”
In 2019, Australia undertook a clandestine mission to rescue eight Australian orphans, including a pregnant teenager, from the camps.
But since then, the Canberra government has refused further repatriations because of security concerns. But officials now believe it is safe to consider rescuing the women and their children.
Lawyers for the detainees trapped in the Syrian camps have said that conditions are “volatile and unsafe” inside the camps as winter approaches.
Lawyer Robert Van Aalst told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the detainees will work with authorities to reintegrate back into Australian society.
“At the beginning there is monitoring and there is communication between federal (and) state entities with those being repatriated,” he said. “That is what will happen here, and each family will be different and each individual mother or woman, and the children, will acclimatize in different ways.”
Germany has repatriated 91 of its citizens from camps in Syria, while France has brought home 86 of its nationals and the U.S. 26.
Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Russia have also repatriated many of their citizens.