Like many Western countries, Australia's government is navigating the tricky legal and political issues around repatriation of the families of Islamic State fighters, as well as terrorists themselves. 

Thousands of foreign children were taken to Syria to be part of the Islamic State, and hundreds more were born there to foreign parents, according to King's College London's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation

Save the Children has been actively calling for their repatriation, arguing that bringing them back can be achieved without putting lives at risk. In Australia, the maternal grandmother of notorious ISIS fighter Khaled Sharrouf's orphaned children, Karen Nettleton, is waging a high-profile effort to bring them from a camp in northern Syrian back to Australia. 

The Australian government has already stripped notorious Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash of his citizenship, rather contentiously, and last year introduced legislation to the Parliament which would make it easier for the Home Affairs Minister to strip Australians of their citizenship on national security grounds.

On the popular ABC Radio National program ‘The Minefield’, Kaldor Centre Senior Research Associate Dr Sangeetha Pillai discusses critical questions with hosts Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens. “If you take action that looks tough but doesn’t actually achieve any practical purpose in neutralising threats, then are you really protecting the democracy... or just talking big?" Dr Pillai asks.

Other questions the ABC highlights are: Do modern nation-states have persistent obligations to their citizens, even when those citizens engage in behaviour that seems to deny their membership to that political community? Can governments render their citizens stateless? Where do our modern conceptions of political responsibilities come up against their limit?

Listen to this thoughtful discussion about thorny issues.