“The families do understand that some sections of the Australian public have fears and apprehension about the return of our young citizens,” they said in a written statement.
“The families are confident that with love, care and professional support, our young citizens will adapt to being home and be well-functioning members of the broader Australian community.”
They added: “Their relatives and concerned members of our communities will continue to do so in any way possible to assist with the rehabilitation of these orphans.”
The eight children have been moved across the border to an undisclosed location in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, where they will undergo DNA testing to verify their identities.
Mr Morrison confirmed the government was considering further repatriations.
“There is no blanket policy here, every single case is assessed on its merits … and we’ll consider any other such cases, particularly in relation to the security issues,” he said.
Lawyer Robert Van Aalst, a long-standing friend and advocate of Karen Nettleton, the Sharrouf children’s grandmother, said the impression he had from meetings with the government was that it was open to further repatriations.
“My optimism tells me that the government is really interested in repatriating widows and children. The government has security concerns. That’s acceptable … But I’ve always got the impression that they’re talking about getting women and children back.”
Sharrouf and his wife Tara Nettleton dragged their five young children to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State terror group’s so-called caliphate. The eldest Sharrouf daughter, Zaynab, 18, has either recently given birth or will do so any day. She has two toddlers. Her sister Hoda, now 17, and their eight-year-old brother Humzeh were also rescued.
Sydney doctor Jamal Rifi, who has been advocating for the return of children and has worked with the government in preparing for their repatriation, said every detail had been planned for the children’s reintegration.
“We have the right nurturing environment for those kids. We provide them with plenty of love, plenty of understanding, plenty of patience. We will provide them with an ideology that will change everything they have been exposed to, from religious education to school education, to sporting facilities, to peer groups, to camping, to excursions, to interacting with wider society,” he said.
“We have thought through everything.”
Deakin University terrorism expert Greg Barton said even from a pure national security perspective, it was better to have children who might have been indoctrinated by IS back in Australia.
“We’ve kidded ourselves in Australia that our national security is better with them being offshore, but in a digital age of social media … are we better letting them go into the wild where they can get online and recruit, or are we better having them here, where we can control them?” he told Sky News.
David Wroe is defence and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.