Saturday 19 September, 2020

Taken to Syria by jihadist dad, Trini boys finally leave refugee camp

Two young children, aged 11 and 7 years, have returned to Trinidad after being trapped in Syria for nearly five years.

Their father, who is believed to be a now-deceased ISIS fighter, allegedly abducted the boys and took them to Syria in June 2014.

The children were reportedly handed over by Syria’s Kurd on Monday.

According to international news agency AFP, lawyer and rights activist Clive Stafford-Smith said Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters helped fly their mother to meet them.

"I was talking to Roger Waters, the founder of Pink Floyd, the famous rock and roll band... He agreed to pay for it all and flew the mother over from Trinidad," the US-British lawyer said.

In response, the National Security Ministry on Tuesday released a statement on the repatriation and reintegration of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who have been held in refugee and detention camps in Syria and Iraq.

The statement notes that a multiagency team dubbed the “Nightingale Team” was formed last August to address possible instances of repatriation of this kind.

The team reports to Minister Stuart Young.

One of the first matters that attracted the team’s attention was the case of the brothers who the International Red Cross advised were Trinidad and Tobago nationals being held at the Camp Roj refugee camp in Syria.

An investigation and verification exercise was subsequently launched to ascertain the facts in the young boys’ case.

According to the National Security Ministry, when the team contacted the boys’ mother and informed her that it was possible that they were being held at a refugee camp in Syria, her response was “not an enthusiastic one”.

Further, the Ministry noted that there was no record of her reporting that the children had been abducted by their father and taken to Syria (or even out of Trinidad and Tobago).

Throughout the exercise, the Ministry said that in spite of the media interest involved in the boys’ case very little could be shared and made public due to the sensitive nature of the matter and the investigations and preparations for possible repatriation.

On the return of any minors or adult nationals from the ISIS battlefronts the Nightingale Team will assessing the best environment for minors who may have experienced the trauma, and ill-effects, of being in, or around, war zones and battlefronts. Any such returnees will be assessed by the appropriate authorities upon their return.

The Ministry assured that Team Nightingale will continue its work mindful of the need to protect the public and its nationals and assured that information will be provided when appropriate to do so.

The composition of the Nightingale Team includes, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU); the Terrorist Interdiction Unit, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS); the Financial Investigation Branch, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS); the Child Protection Unit, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS); the Anti-Terrorism Desk, Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs (AGLA); the Children’s Authority; the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), Ministry of National Security; the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Compliance Unit, Ministry of National Security; and the Intelligence Services.

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