Families call on Government: Rethink repatriation of nationals in ISIS refugee camps

Hall of Justice, Port of Spain
Hall of Justice, Port of Spain

FAMILIES of women and children held at an ISIS refugee camp in Syria said it was a “day of great disappointment” for them after a High Court judge ruled that the court could not order the Minister of National Security to repatriate 12 of them.

The families in TT had filed a lawsuit which called on the court to instruct the minister to facilitate the repatriation of the group. On Monday, the court denied the application, saying it had no jurisdiction to do so.

In a statement on Tuesday, the families said the displaced women and children were living in “desperate situations in Syria.”

They said while they were guided by the court’s ruling, they will review it to determine if there were legitimate grounds for appeal.

The statement said the families were “heartbroken” by the decision.

“We held on to hope that our government would realise the dire circumstances of our nationals and take the necessary steps to bring them home.”

Previously, they said they were willing to agree to a civil contract for the repatriation of their loved ones and to cover the costs of bringing them home.

“Seventy of our little ones and 24 women are currently struggling to survive in Al Hol and Al Roj (camps), two of the worst refugee camps in the world.

“These vulnerable TT nationals are enduring extreme weather conditions, inadequate shelter, poor nutrition and contaminated water. The children are especially at risk of physical and sexual abuse. The area recently became a deadly conflict zone, exacerbating our fears for our loved ones,” the families said.

The State, in opposition to the lawsuit, had argued that when a citizen leaves TT voluntarily, and did not return, the Government only maintained a record of the initial destination, not subsequent destinations, and it was not in the interest of TT’s national security to rely on unverified information relating to nationality of those at the camps.

It also argued because of TT’s closed borders, anyone wanting to return must apply for an exemption. None were sought for the group.

A committee set up by the Ministry of National Security, dubbed the Nightingale Committee, has been working on drafting a policy for the repatriation of citizens from conflict zones, but there is currently none in place.

“While members of our government apparently have been sleeping peacefully while they suffer, we cannot rest easy while our families live like this," said the statement. "The recent decision only highlights the fact that our government seems to be unconcerned while their lives hang in the balance. “

The families called on the Government to rethink its position on the repatriation of the group.

“Please remember that these are citizens of TT. Please remember that many of these refugees are children who did not choose their situation and who are suffering the most. Please do not abandon them again,” their joint statement read.


"Families call on Government: Rethink repatriation of nationals in ISIS refugee camps"

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