A HIGH COURT judge has given permission to the families of a group of women and children who are seeking to return to TT from a Kurdish-run al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria to include the Attorney General in their lawsuit.
On Monday, Justice Joan Charles gave permission to the families to amend their judicial review application to include an element of constitutional review. As a result, she said in mixed claims it would be permissible to allow the claimants to serve the proceedings on the AG even where he is not made a party.
“It seems that this case has more judicial review elements although the amendments sought introduce constitutional reliefs. However, given the nature and circumstances of the case and the possible effects of any decision, I think that the Attorney General should be added as a party if that constitutional element is to be introduced via the amendment,” she ruled. Her order is that the claimants must file an application to add the AG as a party to the proceedings. The substantive matter is expected to be heard later this month.
Before her is a rolled-up application for leave for judicial review and a constitutional motion filed by the families of at least ten women and children at the al-Hol camp that say the women and children form part of a vulnerable group because of their refugee status and were at risk of exploitation and abuse.
In their application, the families said they made several attempts to have the issue of repatriation addressed since April, last year.
It also added that conditions at the camp were unsafe and unhealthy with hardly any food or water and there was an infestation of flies. Toilet facilities are holes dug into the ground.
The families complain that they are concerned about the women’s safety at the camp. They also pointed out that at least five countries have repatriated their citizens from the camp, including France, the US and the UK which started repatriating children.
It said the International Committee of the Red Cross was willing to assist in the repatriation of the women and children if a request is made by the Government.
Previously, one of the women at the al-Hol refugee camp wrote to Prime Minister Dr Rowley appealing for her and her five children to be brought home.
Almost 68 people — mainly children and women — have been detained at al-Hol and other refugee camps. International figures suggest about 130 nationals, including fighters and families, went to the ISIS conflict zones during the period 2012-2015.
The families will be asking the court to order the minister to allow the group admission into TT or give an assurance that they will not be denied entry into the country.
A larger group of 82 women and children at the al-Hol camp wrote the chief immigration officer in December asking for valid travel documents to verify their nationality. Their attorneys asked that the necessary steps be taken to facilitate their repatriation by providing them with valid travel documents.
At the hearing before Charles, it was argued that as citizens they cannot be denied entry into the country. However, attorneys for the State said it was not established that they were citizens of TT.
Representing the families are Senior Counsel Elton Prescott and attorneys Criston J Williams and Kerrina Samdeo while the Minister of National Security, named as the defendant, was represented by Reginald Armour, SC, with Vanessa Gopaul, Rishi Dass and Laura Persad.