What will happen to suspected Kiwi terrorist's children? Expert outlines the potential solutions

The children of a New Zealand citizen suspected of being an Islamic State terrorist might end up in Australia, separated from their mother in New Zealand, an international law expert says. 

Suhayra Aden, arrested in Turkey earlier this month, was originally a dual citizen of New Zealand and Australia - but Australia renounced the 26-year-old's citizenship, leaving her New Zealand's problem.

She had been in Syria, Turkey saying she was a member of terror group Islamic State. Since leaving Australia, where she previously lived, Aden has had two children. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newshub Nation she had assurances their welfare was being looked after, as they await the outcome of discussions between New Zealand, Australia and Turkey about where the trio will end up. 

"We don't want this to be long, drawn-out and protracted, but we do want to try and get the right solution."

Claire Breen, an expert in international law from the University of Waikato, told Newshub Nation the best outcome would be for the children to end up with family - wherever that may be.

"That could be in the first instance, they remain with their mother. But if for whatever reason that's not possible, then the children need to be with their wider family [in Australia]." 

Claire Breen.
Claire Breen. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Australia doesn't want Aden, saying she's a national security risk. But if she ends up in New Zealand, it's likely she'll be put under surveillance - which isn't an ideal environment for her children, nor would it be if their mother could potentially expose them to extremist ideas.

"There will be situations where the authorities can intervene there if they believe that it's in the children's best interests not to be with the parent," said Dr Breen, adding that it could that Aden stays in New Zealand while her kids are sent to Australia, rather than end up in the care of Oranga Tamariki.

"If the wider family is in Australia, I think that would be preferable... if the mother isn't in a position [to look after them], then they should be with the wider family."

The United Nations Covenant on the Rights of the Child - of which both New Zealand and Australia are signatories - says the family is the "fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and wellbeing of all its members and particularly children".

"The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding," it reads.

But sending the kids to Australia if they can't live with their mother isn't a simple fix either. Australia's stripping of Aden's citizenship leaves the children in a kind of legal limbo, Dr Breen said.

"The decision to remove Australian citizenship of the mother will have a knock-on effect on the children, because it raises real questions about their ability to acquire Australian nationality, which then feeds into the broader discussion about whether they can be in Australia with their wider family, if their mother can't look after them."

In the meantime, she said it might be a good idea to get the family to New Zealand sooner rather than later, then figure out the finer details, to be absolutely sure the children are being looked after. 

"Turkey seems to be keen to repatriate the children. If the mother's a New Zealand citizen, I think then maybe bringing the family here is one solution, a better solution, and then trying to make a decision about what happens to the mother and the children."