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Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews

Derek Achong

Lawyers representing over 50 children, whose Trinidadian parents defected to the Islamic State (IS) before its collapse, have sued the Chief Immigration Officer over her failure to respond to their request for temporary travel documents.

In the court filings, obtained by Guardian Media, the lawyers representing the children, who remain detained at Al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria, claimed that Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews never responded to their repeated requests to facilitate them since November, last year.

“This undue delay to make a decision is adverse to the rights of the children of the Republic of T&T to be heard and have their request considered,” attorney Kerrina Samdeo said, as she claimed the delay adversely affects their right to life and protection of same.

“Every day, hour and second counts and may be held to be accountable in an application where the right to life and more so the right to protection of the life of children of the Republic of T&T should it lead to the death of same upon consideration of this application,” she added, as she noted that such delay is not in keeping with this country’s international human rights obligations.

Samdeo also took aim at the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill 2020, which she said seeks to improperly target children.

“The definition of returnee in this draft bill would encompass children which fundamentally goes against the best interest of the children, in this instant application. Furthermore, the bill contemplates the detention of returnees at a residence designated by the minister which is also inimical to the interest of children,” she said, as she suggested that such a move would negatively affect this country’s international image.

Through the lawsuit, the group is seeking an order compelling Gandhi-Andrews to consider their request thoroughly and make a decision. They also seeking financial compensation.

The case is expected to come up for hearing next week.

The lawsuit comes as a separate group of two women with eight children and two orphans of a former Islamic IS Trinidadian fighter await judgment in their separate case against the Ministry of National Security, over its (the ministry) failure to respond to their request to be repatriated.

In that 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 a 33-year-old woman 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 camp, controlled by Kurdish forces, housed 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.

The group is also being represented Criston J Williams and Jerome Riley.