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Australia Moves to Strip Suspected Terrorists of Citizenship — So Long As They're Dual Citizens

The "Allegiance to Australia" bill would apply to dual citizens who have fought in government-designated militant groups or engaged in activities that would support terrorism, such as training, recruitment, or making donations.
Lukas Coch/EPA

Australia passed a new anti-terrorism bill Thursday that would allow the government to strip dual-nationals of citizenship if they're found to be involved in terrorist activities. The "Allegiance to Australia" bill, introduced earlier this June, would apply to dual citizens who have fought in government-designated militant groups or engaged in activities that would support terrorism, such as training, recruitment, or making donations. Although the law also applies to dual-citizens who have been convicted of terrorism, they do not have to be charged or convicted to have their citizenship revoked.

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Attorney General George Brandis said that the provision was necessary to protect Australia from a "new age of terrorism," and would help prevent Australian dual citizens engaged in terrorism from returning to the country.

"Dual nationals who engage in terrorism are betraying their allegiance to this country and do not deserve to be Australian citizens," said Brandis.

Around 90 Australians are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria, and half of them are believed to be dual citizens, according to the BBC.

Australia's new law echoes similar moves across the globe as countries show increasing concerns over terrorism and domestic security. Canada enacted a bill this July that would strip dual nationals of citizenship if they had been convicted of terrorism. In the wake of the Paris attacks, French President Francois Hollande has called for measures to make it easier to strip citizenship — France's law currently allows the government to revoke citizenship if a naturalized citizen has been convicted of terrorism within 15 years of becoming a citizen. Hollande's proposal would apply the law to French-born dual citizens.

In the UK, the government has the right to revoke the citizenship of suspected terrorists who are dual or naturalized citizens, even if it renders them stateless.

Related: Canada Puts New Law to Use, Moves to Revoke Citizenship of Convicted Terrorist

Australia's legislation notes that it will not allow anyone to become stateless, and that ministerial oversight would be required before citizenship can be revoked. But the bill has drawn criticism since its introduction, with rights groups questioning whether the bill is constitutional.

In a joint letter sent to Parliament in November, several civil liberties organizations called for the bill to be abandoned, arguing that the it encroached on Australians' rights and would create a two-tiered system of citizenship.

"It is a fundamental error to expressly legislate for two classes of Australian citizenship — it emboldens the rhetoric of extremists who would assert that there are "true" Australians and then there are "others," the council wrote. "It will support those who want to divide us rather than to unite us."

In November, critics said that the law may face a challenge in constitutional court.