Aden arrival sparks NZ terror debate

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern has agreed to the return of an alleged Islamic State member and her children.
NZ PM Jacinda Ardern has agreed to the return of an alleged Islamic State member and her children.

New Zealand will wrap support services around a deported family from Turkey, while maintaining Australia washed its hands of the challenging case.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced plans to accept Turkey's request to repatriate a 26-year-old woman and her two children after six months of detention.

Turkish authorities picked up the Interpol-listed woman on the Syrian border earlier this year.

NZ media report her identity as Suhayra Aden, a New Zealand-born 26-year-old who moved to Australia aged six.

Ms Aden left for Syria in 2014 as a dual national, but Australia stripped her Australian citizenship amid Kiwi howls of protestation.

"If the shoe were on the other foot, we would take responsibility. That would be the right thing to do. And I ask of Australia that they do the same," Ms Ardern said back in February.

NZ's bill of rights gives every Kiwi citizen the right to return to the country, and Ms Ardern's cabinet has accepted her passage.

Ms Ardern claimed an Australian concession from the case, saying "Australia has subsequently assured us it will proactively consult with New Zealand if any such case arises in future".

Ms Aden's lawyer Deborah Manning told 1News the family was eager to arrive in NZ.

"It's been a very long road and they're looking forward to being here, starting their next chapter of their lives," she said.

The woman's pending arrival in NZ has been seized upon by opposition parties, with National foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee claiming, without evidence, she has been "party to some terrible atrocities".

"How do we know she's deradicalised?" he said on Radio NZ.

"You could also take the view that this is a person that hasn't lived in New Zealand for a very long time and left Australia to join an organisation that was hell-bent on destroying a way of life that we enjoy in this country."

Police will investigate Ms Aden on her arrival to see whether she has broken NZ anti-terror laws.

The repatriation is also likely to open up a new political debate in NZ, foreshadowed by My Brownlee.

"Should we have legislation similar to Australia that says if you leave the country to join a terrorist organisation you effectively abandon your citizenship? The fact that we don't has got us into this position," he said.

The NZ government faces the tricky position of supporting the family's integration, while allowing for a police investigation and possible community pushback to her arrival.

Ms Ardern said the welfare of the two children was paramount.

"These are children who through no fault of their own are in dire circumstances, at the same time we are absolutely committed to preserving the safety of New Zealanders," she said.

Australian Associated Press