Citizenship Cancellation: a new chapter in Australia’s fight against terror

Posted on April 8, 2017 Under All, Comment 0 Comments

Dan McNamara

With the threat of terror continuing to greatly affect international relations, state powers worldwide are scrambling to increase border protection and counterterrorism mechanisms. This article will consider the effect of the recent power granted to the Immigration Minister to cancel the citizenship of dual citizens.

2017 has been a symbolic year for international efforts against terror. With ISIS still holding significant landmass in Iraq and Syria, coupled with sleeper cells and propaganda regimes worldwide, the pressure is on for domestic decision-makers to protect their own borders. Australia, despite being geographically far-removed from Iraq and Syria, is still threatened by the efforts of this terror organisation. It too has had a fair share of terror-related incidents, namely in the Lindt Café Siege of 2014, where two civilians were killed during Man Haron Monis’ standoff with special forces.

Naturally, counter-terrorism measures have been at the forefront of much political discussion, and the spectrum of responses has been large. Notably, the travel ban instated by US President Donald Trump has been met with an immense backlash due to its rash implementation. This policy was not supported by the US Supreme Court who, at present, continue to block proposed revisions to the policy.

In Australia, a country whose immigration policies are considered to be some of the strictest in the world, also legislate in light of the current international political climate. As a firm ally of the US who are a leading figure in the fight against ISIS, a concern for both countries alike are the implications of having home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.

One individual that has caught the attention of the media in Australia and worldwide is Khaled Sharrouf. Born to Lebanese immigrants to Australia, Sharrouf gained widespread attention from his prominent featuring in ISIS propaganda videos, as well as an image depicting Sharrouf and his sons holding severed heads.

With individuals like Sharrouf in mind, the Federal Parliament passed the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Act 2015 (Cth). Under this amendment act, the powers to cancel citizenship covered those who:

  • have been found guilty of making a false or misleading statement in relating to their citizenship application;
  • have been convicted of an offence against either an Australian or foreign law; and
  • have either been sentenced to death, or a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more;
  • have been convicted of a serious criminal offence and has been sentenced to at least 12 months’ imprisonment at any time prior to becoming a citizen;
  • have gained citizenship either through migration, or third party fraud; and/or
  • the Minister is satisfied that it would be contrary to the public interest if the person remains an Australian citizen.

Prior to the passing of this legislation, only those who were convicted of serving in armed forces of a country Australia was at war with could have their citizenship cancelled, a power which was never carried out.

Earlier this year, the citizenship cancellation power was used on Khaled Sharrouf, considered by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to have satisfied the abovementioned criteria. Widespread attention was gained from this decision, with a spectrum of responses by media outlets and individuals alike.

Yet, at present, Iraqi armed forces continue to reclaim Mosul, a city which was once the headquarters of the ISIS regime. In the slow but steady diminution of ISIS’ hold in the region and beyond, the focus will largely shift to the return of foreign fighters to their countries of origin/citizenship. Inevitably, this power will continue to be used in Australia, having a general bilateral support in both the upper and lower houses of Federal Parliament. The implications of the discretionary nature of the use of the power will likely come into play, and contribute to a new chapter of Australia’s legislative fight against terror.

Dan is a final year Arts/Law student, who takes a particular interest in the paths decision-makers take in legislating against terror organisations

Photo credit: