T&T goes on defensive about release of young citizens in Syria

T&T goes on defensive about release of young citizens in Syria

Government says no record of two children kidnapped by ISIS fighter dad

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Government said yesterday there was no record of two children being kidnapped by their father and taken to Syria as it responded to international media reports that rock musician Roger Waters had helped secured their release.

The media reports said that the boys, who had been kidnapped and taken to Syria by their ISIS fighter father in 2014 have been reunited with their Trinidadian mother.

The reports said that the boys, who were taken to live in the so-called IS “caliphate”, were able to leave Syria with the help of Waters, the front man for Pink Floyd, who helped their mother fly to Syria to meet them.

But in a statement, the Ministry of National Security said that while it had been made aware by the International Red Cross that two minors – Ayyub Abdul Qadir Ferreira and Mahmud Abdul Wahid Ferreira – were being held at the Roj refugee camp in Syria, the reaction of the mother at the time was “noteworthy”.

The Ministry of National Security said a special team named “Nightingale” which had been established last year to deal with possible repatriation and reintegration of Trinidad and Tobago citizens who have been held in refugee and detention camps in Syria and Iraq, had soon after the information from the Red Cross “immediately begun a complex and detailed investigation and verification exercise to ascertain the facts surrounding these young boys.

“When the team contacted the mother of these boys and informed her that it was possible that they were being held at a refugee camp in Syria, it is noteworthy that her response was not an enthusiastic one and 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)”.

The statement said that the verification and investigation process is a complex one which was paralleled with developing a process and procedure for repatriation and reintegration which would include assessing the status of returning nationals.

“During this process, which by its very nature is a confidential and multifaceted one, balancing public interest and national security concerns, there has been an understandable amount of media interest generated.

“However, very little could be shared and made public due to the sensitive nature of the matter and the investigations and preparations for possible repatriation.”

The Ministry of National Security said that upon the return of any minors or adult nationals from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) battlefronts, the Nightingale Team and its various elements have different roles to play, including, assessing the best environment for minors who may have experienced the trauma, and ill effects, of being in, or around, war zones and battlefronts.

“It is expected that any such returnees will be assessed by the appropriate authorities upon their return. Team Nightingale will continue to do its work mindful of the need to protect the public and our nationals. Providing information when appropriate to do so,” the statement noted.

The international media reports indicated that the two boys were reunited with their mother through an arrangement involving lawyer, rights activist and founder of Reprieve, Clive Stafford-Smith, who was engaged by Waters.

“The two children were kidnapped by their father from Trinidad and brought 4,000 miles over here” in June 2014,” Stafford-Smith said.

Reprieve provides free legal and investigative help to the vulnerable around the world facing rendition, torture, and extra-judicial imprisonment or death.

Kurdish-led forces have rounded up hundreds of foreigners who allegedly fought for ISIS, but they also hold more than 1,200 children and 500 women related to them.

The Kurds have repeatedly called on their home countries to take them back.

The Ministry of National Security said that the Team Nightingale reports to National Security Minister Stuart Young and its composition includes officials from the Financial Intelligence Unit; the Terrorist Interdiction Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service; the Child Protection Unit, and the Counter Trafficking Unit.

Trinidad and Tobago is believed to have the most Caribbean nationals fighting with the terrorist group ISIS in Syria and Iraq, according to intelligent sources.

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