The Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq has doubled its recruits from Australia in the past 12 months but the figure is expected to level off soon, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has revealed.
Australia has been increasingly concerned about the ability of Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, to lure citizens to the conflict and at least 20 nationals are believed to have died in combat there.
“We estimate that there are around 120 Australians currently in Iraq and Syria supporting Daesh and other terrorist groups,” Bishop told reporters in New York late Sunday where she has been attending the United Nations General Assembly. “That is double the number that I reported here 12 months ago.”
Bishop said estimates were that 30,000 foreigners from at least 100 countries had joined IS jihadists and Australia was “responding robustly” to the rising number of citizens travelling to join them.
She said Australia had undertaken a number of measures to curb radicalisation, including creating diversion programs and amending laws for people who go and fight abroad. The Australian government has also been proactive in cancelling passports of citizens known to have travelled abroad to fight and has instigated interventions with intelligence agencies.
“We are having some success in interrupting the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, but I wouldn’t say we have yet turned the tide,” Bishop added.
One controversial move now under consideration in Australia is an update the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 so dual nationals who engage in terrorism can lose their citizenship.
In a statement released in May, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said he will be seeking to “exercise these powers in the national interest where a dual citizen betrays our country by participating in serious terrorist-related activities.”
The new powers will apply to dual citizens who fight with or support groups such as IS, or Daesh, as well as so-called ‘lone wolves’, whether in Australia or on foreign soil.
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