New Zealand’s high commissioner in Canberra, Dame Annette King, says Australia’s decision to cancel the citizenship of a woman trying to flee Syria has left the country in a “difficult position”. Suhayra Adam having Australian and New Zealand citizenship and has spent most of her life time in Australia was recently detained when she was trying to cross the Syrian border into Turkey with her two children. King said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern first raised the cancellation of her Australian citizenship with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison as far back as July 2019, saying “it is an issue she feels strongly about”.
Ardern this week accused Australia of abdicating its responsibilities regarding the 26-year-old Melbourne woman, who allegedly joined Islamic State in Syria and this would mean that with Adam losing her Australian citizenship would sent back to New Zealand in the event she is deported by the Turkish Government. King, who is a former Labour Party deputy leader, said she could not reveal what was said in the phone call between Morrison and Ardern, “although I heard it was a positive meeting”.
“Our Prime Minister has raised this issue with Prime Minister Morrison from around about July 2019, and it is an issue she feels strongly about,” King told the Australian Institute of International Affairs on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s all to do with Australian legislation in terms of cancelling dual citizenship … and the issue of whether it should be cancelled. “In the case of this particular person, who spent most of her life in Australia, leaving New Zealand when she was six years old … her connections are in Australia, none are in New Zealand and cancelling her citizenship leaves New Zealand in a difficult position.” King said Ardern would continue to express her views “strongly”, which she could do “because we are good friends”.
Laws passed by Australia’s Federal Parliament in 2015 mean dual citizens automatically lose their Australian citizenship if they engage in terrorism-related conduct while overseas. But under recent changes, the automatic citizenship loss has been removed and Australia’s Home Affairs Minister will instead be given the power strip citizenship if they are “satisfied” the person would not be made stateless.
This strain has caused yet another split in trans-Tasman interactions after it was made known that New Zealand had upset the Australian officials by suggesting it had mismanaged its relationship with China and Prime Minister Arden condemned the Australian Government’s policy of deporting convicted criminals who were born overseas.
King said “we have an extremely good relationship with Australia on just about every issue”.
“If there is a rough point, it is around the treatment of New Zealanders who live in Australia and many of them have been here for most of their lives,” she said. “The ability for them to get citizenship, the ability of them to access services which Australians can access in New Zealand, is an issue that we raise whenever we meet.” She said New Zealand was “concerned” with China’s growing assertiveness in the region but “we do have a relationship with China that is spanning many sectors of the economy and society”. Asked whether Australia had mismanaged its relationship with Beijing, Dame Annette said: “I couldn’t possibly comment on Australia’s foreign policy that is very much up for Australia but as I said we very much focus on a mature relationship [with China].”