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Monday 14 October 2019
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Young: No TT citizens confirmed at Syrian refugee camp

National Security Minister Stuart Young. FILE PHOTO
National Security Minister Stuart Young. FILE PHOTO

NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young said he cannot confirm at this time that there are TT citizens at the Syrian refugee camp Al-Hol.

He was responding to a question in the Senate on Tuesday from Opposition Senator Wade Mark, who asked whether Government intended to facilitate the return to TT of several women and children currently detained at the camp.

His questions follow reports that a Muslim group called Con­cerned Mus­lims of T&T had written to the Government for assistance in bringing back to 25 chil­dren and adults who are rel­a­tives of Is­lam­ic State fight­ers and were reportedly at Al-Hol, in northeastern Syria.

Young said Government has to treat with all these issues very carefully.

"This Al-Hol refugee camp houses persons who fled from ISIS war zones, and the first thing the Government has to do is a verification exercise. The Government has policies and procedures which we have implemented, including the use of Team Nightingale, which is a multi-agency task force comprising the Children's Authority, Counter Trafficking Unit, counter-terrorism units, TTPS, TT Defence Force, Immigration, persons from Ministry of National Security and other agencies (and) our intelligence services."

He added officials liaise with other intelligence agencies from around the world.

Young stressed that Government cannot give an undertaking about returning the people in the camp because a verification must be done as to who exists, what is their background and whether they are in fact citizens of TT.

"And we will continue to do our work. With matters of national security, especially of this nature, there is very little that can be said about the particulars," he added.

Mark asked if Young could confirm there are TT citizens at the camp and Young replied at this stage, "Nothing can be confirmed." Mark also asked how long the verification process will take for confirmation and Young replied that he could not say.

In January this year two boys, aged seven and 11, arrived in Trinidad with their mother after being rescued from Roj refugee camp, also in northeastern Syria. The boys were taken from Trinidad four years ago by their father, who went to fight with ISIS in Syria. The brothers and their mother crossed the Iraqi border with human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and were then flown to Switzerland with the help of Roger Waters of the rock band Pink Floyd before flying to London and then to Trinidad.

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