Accused terrorist's return: Jacinda Ardern given assurances from Australia it won't 'arbitrarily' cut citizenship in future

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been given assurances from Australia that it won't "arbitrarily" cancel citizenship of those who are also New Zealand citizens, without first discussing it. 

It follows Ardern's confirmation on Monday that the Government had accepted a request from Turkish authorities to deport alleged Islamic State terrorist Suhayra Aden and her two children to New Zealand. 

The 26-year-old woman was arrested in February by Turkish authorities near the border with Syria over her alleged links to the Islamic State terror group. 

She held dual Australian-New Zealand citizenship, but hadn't lived in New Zealand since she was six. That didn't stop Australia from revoking her Australian citizenship, washing their hands of the problem and dumping it on New Zealand. 

Ardern was furious at the time, accusing Australia of "abdicating its responsibilities", because "any fair-minded person" would consider the woman Australian. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his priority was protecting his country. Australian law allows the Home Affairs Minister to strip anyone suspected of terrorism of their citizenship, as long as it wouldn't leave them stateless. 

Ardern told reporters on Monday that Australia has promised not to do it again. 

"Everyone will absolutely know the frustration we have had over Australia's decision to revoke the citizenship of someone we believe ultimately was Australia's responsibility.

"However, New Zealand does not arbitrarily cancel citizenship and leave people stateless. We have legal obligations that oblige us not to do that. I've been given an explanation from Australian officials and leadership. I just don't accept it.

"However, over the past few months, whilst we've been undertaking talks, we have been given an assurance from Australia that we will not have another situation where a citizen of dual Australia and New Zealand will be arbitrarily cancelled in this way again.

"So, we have made progress there, and equally we have made some progress on the way the children in this case will be treated."

Ardern still believes Australia should have taken Aden.

"They should have. We did see this as Australia's obligation. They took a different view. They arbitrarily cancelled the citizenship of the individual involved. That left New Zealand with responsibilities that we have not denied."

Ardern said the fact that there are children involved is what makes it so important for New Zealand to step up. 

"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."

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft agrees, and says the family's privacy should be respected. 

"I am proud that New Zealand has put the interests of the children in this case first and allowed them safe passage to Aotearoa with their mother," he said on Monday.

"Now the rest of us need to call on the same compassionate spirit that saw us come together through COVID and other tragedies. We need to protect and embrace the two small children at the centre of this situation as they start to make Aotearoa home.

"They are New Zealand citizens after all."

Ardern said police will decide if the woman should face charges. 

"Anyone who is found to have been engaging in that form of activity, of course the police have the ability to investigate and then follow through on.

"As you can imagine, investigations are somewhat difficult with the distance between the individual in question and the New Zealand police."

New Zealand has agreed to repatriate Aden and her children to ensure Turkey doesn't send her back with little warning or planning, Ardern explained. 

"Let me be clear: the choice of not accepting a repatriation could well have led to Turkey to have the person shipped back to New Zealand without any safety contingency would not have been right for us or for the children involved."