6 Nov 2015

Aus deports Kiwi on return from Syria

5:23 pm on 6 November 2015

A New Zealander is being deported from Australia one day after returning from a peace mission to Syria.

Warren Marriner

Warren Marriner travelled to Syria as part of a peace tour Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Warren Marriner said he went to Syria as part of an International Tour of Peace organised by the Social Justice Network of Sydney, which aims to prevent the radicalisation of young Muslims.

A registered nurse, who is formerly from Taranaki but has lived in Perth for 11 years, Mr Marriner said he travelled to Syria to prove that it was safe to visit the country and see for himself what was going on.

His group, which was led by the Muslim community leader and anti-radicalisation campaigner Jamal Daoud, visited areas that the Syrian army and its allies had liberated from rebel movements such as Islamic State.

"I went to the Yarmouk Palestinian camp that was heavily, heavily attacked by Islamic State and Daesh. The spirit of the people ... they've got a spring in their step, they seem to be very happy now. There seems to be a brighter future you know."

Mr Marriner said life in Syria was still tough because sanctions meant it could not get the medical supplies it required.

Warren Marriner poses with Syrian National Defence Force troops in Damascus.

Warren Marriner poses with Syrian National Defence Force troops in Damascus. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Speaking from the Perth Immigration Detention Centre this morning, Mr Marriner said he told Australian authorities he was planning to visit Syria before he left and only fell foul of immigration officials when he returned to Perth.

He said he forgot to declare 30-year-old minor convictions in New Zealand and that was the official reason for his deportation.

The 49-year-old was, however, convinced it was because of where he had travelled to.

"It's because I went to Syria. I mean, I had no problem about hiding such things. I said look, excuse me, it was just a slip of the mind, you know, it was 30 years ago and a lot of other things have happened in life.

"And yeah, they decided to pick up on that now so it's definitely political, it's definitely political."

The Australian and New Zealand governments advise against all travel to Syria and it is illegal for Australian citizens, including dual citizens, to provide any kind of support to any armed group in Syria.

It is also an offence under Australian law for Australians to enter or remain in the Syrian province of al Raqqa, which has been declared an area where a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity.

Mr Marriner is being held at the Perth Immigration Detention Centre pending his return to New Zealand, which is expected to be tomorrow.

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