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Minister holds ‘robust’ meeting with mayors over repatriation of IS families to Western Sydney

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Minister holds ‘robust’ meeting with mayors over repatriation of IS families to Western Sydney

Home Affairs Minister Claire O’Neil has held a “robust” meeting with Western Sydney mayors in a bid to allay their concerns over the repatriation of the families of Islamic State (IS) fighters from Syria.

The four Australian women and 13 children were taken from Roj detention camp in north-eastern Syria, arriving at Sydney International Airport on October 29.

They are being resettled with their families in south-western Sydney.

Several mayors in Western Sydney have publicly voiced their frustration at the decision, with one concerned the region was a “dumping ground” for the families and felt they should not be repatriated there.

Of concern for the mayors is the high number of refugees resettled in Sydney’s west, many of whom fled IS.

Ms O’Neil had been under pressure to meet with the mayors and spoke to them, alongside cabinet colleague and local member Chris Bowen, for an hour in a private meeting at Fairfield City Council.

A man and a woman talk to microphones while a line of men stand to their side
Local member Chris Bowen also attended the meeting.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Ms O’Neil said she brought expert counterterrorism and security personnel with her to talk to the group.

“I hope that does show the mayors and the communities here how seriously we take their concerns,” she said after the meeting.

“There is a lot of work that has gone into the decision that’s been made here, a lot of work that will go into making sure that the community is safe as a result.”

Asked why the repatriation decision was made, Ms O’Neil reiterated concerns for national security.

“The Australian government has a choice, we can bring these people back to Australia in a managed way, where we can make sure that the community is kept safe,” she said.

“Or we can see these people return after a bunch of Australian children have grown up in a camp where they are subjected every day to radical ideologies.”

A man in a suit speaking with several microphones in front of him
Mr Carbone says the discussions were “honest” and “robust”.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone said it was an “open, honest and very robust” discussion.

“We agree on some things, we disagree on others,” he said.

“Hopefully, they’ve also learned a lot about local communities and about the concerns that we have here in this region.”

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