Australian Teenager Oliver Bridgeman 'Stranded' In Syria Appeals To Have Passport Reinstated

29/02/2016 4:19 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Image via Facebook/ Oliver Bridgeman

The lawyers of the Queensland teenager stranded in Syria will launch an appeal against the Federal Government’s "nonsensical" decision to cancel his passport.

Oliver Bridgeman, who also goes by Yusuf, tried to return to Australia after being in Syria for almost one year.

But the 19-year-old’s lawyers were informed earlier this month that the Australian Government cancelled his passport, a decision that will mean he is unable to legally leave Syria.

Alex Jones, of Bosscher Lawyers, said in a statement that the decision was “nonsensical” and that it greatly distressed Bridgeman’s parents.

“The Australian Government has stranded a Queensland teenager in a foreign country,” said Jones.

“This has happened at a time when Mr Bridgeman was organising to come home and had been communicating and fully co-operating with authorities.”

Bridgeman was reported missing by his parents in March last year when he did not return home from what was believed to be a humanitarian trip to Indonesia.

Earlier this month, Bridgeman’s parents also met with the Australian Federal Police to discuss their son’s situation.

“There is absolutely no evidence Mr Bridgeman had engaged -- or ever intended to engage -- in any unlawful acts while in Syria,” his lawyers said in a statement.

“We do not understand the point of this. Mr Bridgeman has nothing to hide. His parents have co-operated with authorities during their son’s time in Syria and are devastated that he now has no means of returning home to them.

“Mr Bridgeman has been in Syria carrying out humanitarian work. He spends his time handing out food and clothing to some of the world’s least fortunate.”

Bridgeman also maintains that he is there to engage in humanitarian work -- regularly posting videos on his Facebook page to counter media reports which he believes are “blowing everything out of proportion”.

In one video, he explains that he has a good relationship with different rebel factions purely for safety reasons.

“For me to travel across Syria, I need people to protect me from being kidnapped or something like that,” he said.

“I’m not part of al Qaeda, I’ve never joined a rebel group. I’m an aid worker.”

The Federal Government has defended its decision with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton telling the ABC that Australians had been warned not to go to Syria.

“It puts our own military staff and personnel at risk, it can have devastating consequences on families,” he said.

“People who go off into conflict zones -- even if they’re well intentioned -- ultimately can cause significant grief and stress for their own families.

“This is something people should contemplate before they go – not when they’re in the middle of a conflict zone.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop echoed these sentiments in a statement issued on her behalf.

"The Government has consistently - and in the strongest terms - discouraged Australians from travelling to Iraq and Syria to participate in hostile activities," she said in a statement.

"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".

Bridgeman is one of a number of Australians that went to Syria despite these warnings.

Among those is Australian Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf, who was believed to have died last year in a drone strike in Syria alongside his friend Mohammed Elomar.

But his death has since been questioned, with News Corp reporting earlier this month that someone claiming to be Sharrouf had contacted people in Sydney.

His five orphaned children and grandchild are believed to be living in the ISIS stronghold city of Raqqa, in Syria.

Bridgeman is currently working with humanitarian aid group ‘Live Updates from Syria’ and moves through refugee towns to provide aid.

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