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The Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

The relatives of women and children living in a Syrian refugee camp are saying that they are disappointed that a High Court decision on whether or not they would be granted passports to return to this country was postponed until April 26.

In a statement released by attorney Criston J Williams & Co Attorneys-at-Law, the families, said, “For months we…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 26 2021. The court has stated that they require more time to deliver the decision.”

In the statement, they added: “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.”

The families added they want their loved ones back home and have even agreed to cover the costs required and have also agreed to the civil contract for the repatriation process.

They lament that their efforts seem futile and have questioned when the government will act.

The relatives said, “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.”

In 2018, the government launched Team Nightingale, a team of terrorism, child protection, financial investigation and law enforcement experts responsible for the eventual repatriation and reintegration of nationals from refugee camps in Syria and Iraq. National Security Minister Stuart Young said soon after the process was complex and due to the sensitivity of the issue, little could be revealed about the team’s work.

In an October 2019 update, Minister Young said the government was still doing verification checks.