3-man team appointed to oversee repatriation of nationals in Syria and Iraq

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3-man team appointed to oversee repatriation of nationals in Syria and Iraq

Former House speaker Nizam Mohammed has been appointed to head a three-man committee to oversee the process of repatriating over 100 T&T nationals, including women and children, who are currently detained in camps and jails in Syria and Iraq.

The other members of the committee are former ambassador Patrick Edwards and local Islamic leader Kwesi Atiba.

This follows a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Monday, which saw the PM give a commitment to bring back the nationals.

Mohammed said they have looked at all the ramifications surrounding the return of our people from Syria.

He said: “It is estimated that you have over 100 of our people out there and each one is going to be a special case. Therefore, you can understand how complicated and tedious, possibly a very tedious exercise.”

“It is not a simple matter of just taking our people and bringing them back home. All the circumstances surrounding this situation are such that they have all kinds of international implications and the Government, though it is committed, has to be very thorough in its approach.”

Mohammed said while a specific framework had not been outlined during the meeting, “some more fundamental action is in the making right now.”

He said, “Even before this meeting, we have been meeting with relatives, we have been meeting with religious organisations, the leadership of the Muslim organisations, and we have been telling them that the feedback that we have gotten from Government, and more particularly the Prime Minister, is that the Government is serious about this repatriation issue.”

He reiterated that with so many associated technical issues which are time consuming, they would have to meet with detainees’ relatives to see how much information they can provide to the authorities to see to what extent the process can be expediated.

“Certain steps are going to be taken, talking with different missions abroad and that kind of thing, and those are the sorts of activities that are going to be taking place before we come up with something substantial,” Mohammed said.

Retired diplomat Edwards has been named liaison officer of the current team. He is set to meet with at least two ministers as he deals with some of the international issues.

Mohammed, along with Atiba, are to meet with relatives as early as possible to give them a briefing on what had taken place and where the Government will be heading from here on.

In terms of the cost for this repatriation exercise, Mohammed said it was still too early to answer that.

“We have not yet arrived at that, but I know one thing is certain and that is, it is going to be very costly. But we have not yet gotten to that stage.”