Another passport has been cancelled by the Australian Government – this time humanitarian worker Oliver Bridgeman.
In contrast to the examples of Australian citizens Matthew Gardiner and George Khamis, this comes as a stark reminder that passport cancellation laws are indelibly targeted towards Muslims.
Both returned to Australia from fighting in the middle east with no charges laid and no passports cancelled.
Queensland teenager Oliver Bridgeman is stranded in Syria after the Federal Government cancelled his passport.
The 19-year-old from Toowoomba left Australia in March last year saying he was doing aid work in Indonesia.
He travelled to Syria but he has previously denied joining a terrorist organisation.
His lawyer Alex Jones said the Government had not spelled out what the teenager had done wrong.
“As far as we’re aware, there’s no allegation that he’s done anything untoward or anything illegal whatsoever and that the basis for these types of decisions are usually on the basis of security risks,” Mr Jones said.
“However, without any allegation that he’s done anything untoward, we simply can’t understand this decision.”
Mr Jones said Mr Bridgeman was disillusioned with the process.
“On the face of it we can’t understand the logic behind the decision,” he said.
“He was attempting to cooperate fully with the authorities. He’d told them that he would make himself available should they wish to speak with him; he told them his travel plans to return. They were well aware of everything, we were in negotiation with authorities.”
He said Syria was becoming more volatile.
“The situation over there is becoming quite intense with the situation with the Russian Government and their actions at the moment so he’s somewhat rattled,” he said.
Mr Jones claimed his client had been told to surrender his cancelled passport to the nearest consular post in Turkey.
But he said there was no legal way for Mr Bridgeman to cross the border from Syria, and that if he did he faced up to 10 years in prison.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she would “not comment on individual cases or intelligence and security matters”.
“The Government has consistently – and in the strongest terms – discouraged Australians from travelling to Iraq and Syria to participate in hostile activities,” she said.
“Australians travelling to Syria or Iraq not only risk committing offences, but may be kidnapped, seriously injured or even killed as a result.
“The Australian Government cannot facilitate the safe passage of people out of the conflict zones.”
An appeal against the decision to cancel Mr Bridgeman’s passport will be filed in a Brisbane court on Monday.
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