Since we last met, the terrorism landscape has been dominated by the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters involved with the barbaric Daesh in the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
We have been shocked by the extent of Daesh’s brutality: slavery; mass murder; suicide bombings; widespread rape; torture; use of child soldiers, and appalled by the wanton destruction of cultural heritage.
The sheer number of people fleeing from the conflict in Syria and Iraq has created a dire humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and throughout Europe.
We cannot ignore the extraordinary statistics provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as to those displaced by virtue of this conflict.
Earlier this month, Australia announced that we will offer permanent resettlement to 12,000 UNHCR registered refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq, in addition to our regular humanitarian intake of 13,750 refugees annually.
Australia also announced a $44 million increase in our humanitarian assistance to Syria and Iraq.
This increase will support more than 240,000 Syrians and Iraqis fleeing their homes or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. It brings Australia’s humanitarian assistance to Syria and Iraq since 2011 to $230 million.
While we are providing humanitarian assistance, we must also take preventative action to resolve the humanitarian crisis which means we must disrupt and ultimately defeat Daesh.
We are currently assisting the Iraqi Government in its efforts to defend its people against violent attacks perpetrated by Daesh, including through air strikes.
Australia has now joined other nations – including the United States, Canada, Turkey and the UAE – to conduct airstrikes against Daesh in Syria, under the principle of the collective self-defence of Iraq.
We must also stop the unrelenting flow of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria, further inflaming the conflict and scale of the humanitarian disaster.
Around 120 Australians citizens are fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq – double the number we reported last year. This is a trajectory replicated across the world.
A disturbing number of women are becoming involved in supporting Daesh – incomprehensible given women and girls face systematic and inhumane cruelty at the hands of Daesh and other terrorist groups.
Tragically, Daesh is proving to be an effective recruiter of radicalised fanatics. It promises a sense of belonging to the dispossessed, a conspiracy to the naïve, and adventure to the restless, the bored, the uninspired.
Those promises are a betrayal – luring people to a lonely death in service of a futile cause.
Australia has responded robustly to this phenomenon.
We have amended our laws, increased resources for our law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, and we are considering stripping dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they are involved in terrorism-related activity.
We are limiting access to and undermining the appeal of extremist material, particularly online content.
We have introduced diversion programs for young people who are stopped at our airports on their way to the Middle East to help them step away from the path of extremism.
Australia is a strong and active supporter of this forum – my ministerial colleague Michael Keenan, Australia’s Minister for Counter-Terrorism is also present this morning.
Last month, Australia hosted a border security experts’ meeting that examined strategies for disrupting the movement of terrorists through remote border areas.
We are also taking a leading role in helping confront radicalisation in our prisons.
Next month Australia and Indonesia will hold a conference in Nairobi on the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals released from prison after serving their sentences.
In November, we will host the 2nd Plenary Meeting of the Detention and Reintegration Working Group.
It will focus on ensuring returnee foreign terrorist fighters who are prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned, are prevented from spreading their perverted ideology to others.
Australia is also developing an innovative training program through the Detention and Reintegration Working Group to help prison staff identify and respond to radicalisation among inmates.
Australia supports the proposals discussed at the special meeting of co-chairs of the GCTF, held in The Hague on 3 September, including embracing the work of the White House CVE Summit process.
We support aligning the GCTF more closely with the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Secretary-General’s Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism.
We urge the GCTF to place increasing emphasis on implementing the good practices that the working groups have already developed.
Colleagues, we must intensify the level of our cooperation to counter the threat from returning terrorist fighters.
We are making progress. More needs to be done to adapt to and confront the changing tactics of terrorist groups.
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