The Al Hol tent camp in Syria.

Several families whose loved ones currently are detained in the Syrian refugee camp of Al Hol have expressed extreme disappointment over the delaying of a High Court ruling to have their family members repatriated to T&T.

The decision was scheduled for Wednesday 31 March 2021.  However, the families have been informed that the ruling will be delivered instead on Monday 26 April 2021.

In an official statement issued by their legal representative, Criston J. Williams & Co Attorneys-at-Law, the families lament the fact that despite their best efforts—including a willingness to cover costs involved in repatriating their loved ones—they continue to be disappointed at every turn.

Nearly 100 nationals from Trinidad and Tobago, the wives and children of men suspected of fighting for the Islamic State, currently are held at the Al Hol refugee camp.

“The area has recently become a conflict zone, making their situation even more devastating and traumatic, and our fears even more severe,” the family members say, “but our government seems to be unfazed and unconcerned while their lives hang in the balance.”

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the families, through their attorney Criston J. Williams…

Response to the Adjournment of High Court Ruling on Displaced Women and Children in Syria

For months we families of Trinidad and Tobago have been waiting with acute anticipation and anxiety for a High Court ruling scheduled for March 31. On this date, we prayed that the Court would finally allow passports and other travel documents to be granted to the women and children of Trinidad and Tobago, our loved ones, who are currently living in the squalor of the Syrian refugee camp of Al Hol. Our hopes for relief were callously dashed with the news that the decision has been moved to April 26th 2021. The Court has stated that they require more time to deliver the decision.  

The disappointment we feel is acute. Again and again we are seeing our family members being treated negligently by their own homeland. Seventy of our little ones as well as twenty-four women, many of them mothers, have been enduring a sordid existence in Al Hol, a place flagged as one of the worst refugee camps in the world. They endure extreme conditions and poor nutrition and are exposed to disease. Physical and sexual abuse is a real danger. The area has recently become a conflict zone, making their situation even more devastating and traumatic, and our fears even more severe. We cannot rest easy until our families are back home, but our government seems to be unfazed and unconcerned while their lives hang in the balance.

We are willing to agree to a civil contract for the repatriation process. We have agreed to cover the required costs. We are more than ready to comply with the necessary conditions to allow our loved ones to be merged appropriately back into society, but our efforts seem pointless.  

Once more we ask when will the government act? When will the Ministry of National Security make good on their promise to look into this matter? When will our loved ones be rescued from this trauma? When will we be able to hold our little ones in our arms again? In the meantime, we continue to live under the shadow of frustration, disillusionment and acute anxiety.

Criston J. Williams & Co. Attorneys-at-Law