Syria-bound Kiwis have passports cancelled

  • 10/02/2014

A small number of Kiwis are fighting with rebels in Syria, while others believed to have intentions to go to the war-torn country have had their passports cancelled.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed today "less than 10" people including some suspected of wanting to head to Syria have had their passports cancelled since a law change in 2005.

The change gave powers to the Minister of Internal Affairs to cancel passports for reasons including national security.

"We can cancel someone's passport if we believe someone is going into a warzone for instance to fight in a way we don't think is a sensible step for them to take," Mr Key said in his post-cabinet press conference today.

The Government also had the right to cancel passports for Kiwis already in Syria, meaning they are stuck where they are or would be deported back to New Zealand.

He would not go into details about individuals, but says they are fighting against the Bashar al-Assad-led government. Some of those people have dual citizenship, including Australia, he says.

Intelligence gathered by New Zealand agencies the Government Central Security Bureau and the Security Intelligence Service as well as overseas agencies has sometimes been "extremely accurate", Mr Key says.

"It leads us to people we believe, and upon discussion with them, would have left if we didn't take steps to stop them. We have physically stopped some people and aware of others who are in Syria."

Those Kiwis in Syria would have a number of reasons for being there, he says.

"They obviously don't put their hand up and say they're necessarily going to be freedom fighters in Syria when they leave so they present a number of different reasons why they might be leaving the country."

Mr Key believes the Government has enough powers to deal with the current situation, and a law change is not necessary.

Authorities monitor those it suspects to be having thoughts about going to Syria, but Mr Key says just thinking about travelling to the conflict-area is not a crime.

"From time to time we need to track the activities of New Zealanders. We need to be sure of their whereabouts. We need to be clear that if they return to New Zealand whether they pose a threat to other New Zealanders if they become radicalised."

Mr Key would not be drawn as to how the suspected individuals are identified.

He was unable to say whether any of those stopped before leaving New Zealand face criminal charges currently before the courts in relation to Syria.

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source: newshub archive