The fact that Suhayra Aden will shortly be on her way back to New Zealand was never in doubt after Australia cancelled her citizenship.

But the whole incident has left a sour taste in New Zealand.

One senior official told POLITIK the Australian move was “an act of hostility” directed at New Zealand.

Another said it had brought the Australia-New Zealand relationship to a new low and that things between the two countries were as bad as they had ever been.

One senior official even speculated (perhaps jokingly) that maybe it was a retaliation by Australia for New Zealand announcing the upgrade of its Free Trade Agreement with China on Australia Day.

Aden was one of 20 people to lose their Australian citizenship under 2015 national security laws targeting dual nationals who act “inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia” by engaging in terrorism-related conduct overseas.

“That happens automatically. And that has been a known part of Australia’s law for some time,” Mr Morrison said at the time.

Morrison’s “pass the parcel” approach to citizenship for ISIS members and their brides has its echoes in the United Kingdom.

Though it is against international law for any government to make a person stateless, the UK Home Office, which is responsible for immigration, has successfully argued in the courts  that an ISIS member Shamima Begum (a schoolgirl ISIS bride) would not be stateless because she was eligible for citizenship in Bangladesh through her parents.

The New Zealand woman has a complex citizenship record.


Aden grew up in a Somalian refugee family who had become New Zealand citizens.  At the age of six, she and her family migrated to Melbourne, Australia where they subsequently acquired Australian citizenship.

(Refugees from the Somali civil war began to arrive in New Zealand in 1993; many were accommodated in what were then Housing New Zealand houses in Mt Roskill.)

In December 2015 Australia passed controversial amendments to citizenship legislation allowing those deemed to have joined a terrorist organisation to have their Australian nationality revoked, provided the move did  not leave them stateless.

It was not necessary to be a formal member of a terrorist organisation to lose citizenship under the law, only to undertake “terrorist-related conduct”.

iSIS was the first terrorist organization to be gazetted by former Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, as one whose members  or associates would be eligble for citizenship stripping.

What is not clear is whether the Government in 2016 when the Foreign Affairs Minister was Murray McCully realised that the Australian move could have implications for New Zealand and whether New Zealand made any protest to Australia about it.

But the move in February to strip Aden’s Australian citizenship off her and thus leave her as New Zealand’s problem even though she had not lived here since she was six clearly struck the New Zealand Government by surprise.

Ardern said on February 16 that she had spoken to Morrison about the case in the previous 12 months.

“I raised that issue directly with PM Morrison and asked that we work together on resolving the issue,” she said.

“I was then informed in the following year that Australia had unilaterally revoked the citizenship of the individual involved.

“You can imagine my response.

“Since that time, we have continually raised with Australia our view that the decision was wrong. We continue to raise that view.”

Ardern’s indication that she has continued to talk to Morrison about the issue is an indication of how seriously she — and New Zealand officials – regarded what they plainly saw as a betrayal.

When Morrison met Ardern in Queenstown in May, TVNZ asked at the emdia conference whether it was appropriate for Australia to have exported “its problem” to New Zealand “when we are supposed to be mates.”

Morrison made no concessions to the New Zealand Prime Minister with his reply.

“Well, Suhayra’s not an Australian citizen,” he said.

Journalist:Was it appropriate though to revoke her citizenship?”

Morrison: “It is our law, and we believe it was.”

Ardern: “We, of course, reiterate our ongoing view on the issue of the cancellation of citizenship, on issues of deportation. Prime Minister Morrison and I have had these exchanges before. He’s very clear on New Zealand’s view.”

There does, however, appear to have been a very slight thaw.

Ardern has confirmed that she does not expect Australia to spring another surprise on her like the Aden one.

“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,” she said on Monday.

“So, we have made progress there,”

A small step; but probably not big enough to erode the deep seated anger that the move originally provoked among New Zealand officials who believed they had been treated to an Aussie snub.