Derek Achong

Lawyers representing a group of 70 Islamic State (IS) defectors and their children are seeking passports to facilitate their repatriation from the Al-Hol refugee camp in north Syria.

In a letter sent to Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews last week, attorney Kerrina Samdeo requested that the group be issued with travel documents as they have no access to consular services at the camp.

In the letter, Samdeo noted that the United Nations had recommended that all countries including T&T facilitate the return of their former citizens, who left their countries to join the caliphate and are now stranded in the camp and others like it.

“We tersely posit you must comply with same to ensure compliance with T&T’s international obligations,” Samdeo said.

Samdeo noted that her clients left this country with others between August 2014 and June 2015 and entered the camp in March, last year.

Samdeo reportedly sent a follow up letter this week but did not receive a response to either up to late yesterday.

The request from the group to be provided with travel documents comes after another group of two women with eight children and two orphans of a former Trinidadian IS fighter brought a lawsuit against the Ministry of National Security for failing to respond to their requests for exemptions to return during ongoing COVID-19 measures.

Through the lawsuit, the relatives are seeking to compel the ministry through National Security Minister Stuart Young to make a decision on whether they would be allowed or denied admission into T&T at a later date.

The group comprises of a 33-year-old woman and her children ages six and 11; a 35-year-old woman and her children ages three, five, 10, 12, and 14 (youngest two born in Syria) and two orphans, ages three and four.

The relatives cannot be identified to protect the identities of the children, who are still minors.

Justice Joan Charles is expected to deliver judgement in that case on January 5.

The camp, controlled by Kurdish forces, houses over 14,000 refugees from over 60 countries, who came to the region to join the IS and have been displaced since its collapse.

Most residents have been experiencing the same difficulties in returning home as their countries also mull over their proposed repatriations.

That group is being represented by Elton Prescott, SC, Criston J Williams and Samdeo, while Reginald Armour, SC, Rishi Dass, Vanessa Gopaul and Laura Persad are representing the State