FAMILIES of almost 50 children who are currently detained at various ISIS detention camps in Syria have filed legal action against the chief immigration officer for an alleged failure to provide them with travel documents so they can have their nationalities verified in their attempts to return to TT.
The application for judicial review was filed on Wednesday by attorneys Criston J Williams, Jerome Riley and Kerrina Samdeo on behalf of Amral Khan, the chief coordinator of the group of relatives with TT nationals in the Syrian war zone.
Khan is also the grandfather of five of the children said to be in a northern Syria detention camp for women and children who left the ISIS caliphate.
The application for the court’s permission asks for an order to compel the chief immigration officer to make a decision on the request for temporary travel documents for the children.
At least three of the children are said to be orphans and their names as well as the names of the others and their mothers were listed in the application which will seek several declarations that the failure to provide the children with travel documents was unreasonable.
The application quotes from several international conventions relating to the rights of children and also points to efforts by other countries to repatriate their nationals from the Syrian detention camps.
It also said the children are captive in a war/conflict zone and face continuous risk of harm, pointing out also that in armed conflict, children were often deliberately targeted or not protected.
“The children are innocent,” the application also said.
In his affidavit, Khan said he tries daily to get as much information he can on the camps and was always fearful to read that something bad has happened to his grandchildren.
“I look for pictures on the online articles hoping to see my grandchildren. I also follow these articles in hopes to see developments which would allow for my grandchildren to return home. From the moment I wake in the morning, I wonder what my grandchildren are waking up to on the same morning. I compare the food I eat to what my grandchildren eat,” he said, adding that he also wondered about their health and well-being.
“I cry when I think about my grandchildren in Syria,” he said.
The application also says the families of the children in TT have formed a partnership with an international terrorism expert to assist with the children’s repatriation.
In December, the group of 82 women and children at the various Syrian camps, wrote to the chief immigration officer asking for travel documents since it had been argued in a separate case also involving ISIS women and children, that as citizens they cannot be denied entry into the country. However, attorneys for the State in that matter said it was not established they were citizens of TT.
Only last week, the judge hearing that matter gave permission to the families to include the Attorney General in their lawsuit since it included an element of constitutional review.
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. 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.