New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned Australia for refusing to accept responsibility for an Australian woman accused of links to the Islamic State (IS), currently detained in Turkey.
Turkish authorities said on Monday that the 26-year-old woman was an IS “terrorist” and had been caught while “trying to enter our country illegally from Syria”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ardern said the woman had held both New Zealand and Australian citizenships but the Australian government had cancelled her citizenship.
She said it was wrong that New Zealand should bear the responsibility for the woman, now 26, who has not lived there since she was six, having lived in Australia with her family for the last 20 years.
The woman had left Australia on her Australian passport, heading for Syria, the prime minister said.
“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.”
The woman’s case has been known to Australian and New Zealand authorities for some time and Morrison added that he would discuss the issue with Ardern later on Tuesday.
Ardern said that after Australia stripped the 26-year-old of her citizenship, she had told Morrison that his decision was wrong. “I never believed the right response was to simply race to revoke people’s citizenships,” 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.”