Human Rights Watch reiterates call for TT gov’t to repatriate nationals held in Syria

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Human Rights Watch reiterates call for TT gov’t to repatriate nationals held in Syria

Human Rights Watch is calling on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to promptly repatriate all of its nationals unlawfully held in Northeast Syria.

Representatives of the group are currently in Trinidad and Tobago and hosted a press conference at Kapok Hotel on Tuesday to reveal the conditions that T&T nationals are being faced with in detention camps in Syria.

They laid their report–Trinidad and Tobago: Bring Home Nationals from Northeast Syria Unlawfully Detained Trinidadians at Risk, Including 56 Children.

During the conference, it was revealed that more than 90 T&T nationals including 56 children and 12 women, among them a grandmother, have been pleading with the Government to allow them to return to their homeland.

They are being held at the Roj and Al-Hol, detention camps for families with alleged ISIS links.

Human Right Watch said 44 of the children in the camps are age 12 or younger, 15 of them are under the age of six and at least 33 children were born in Syria, including one child, age three, born in Al-Hol.

At least 13 Trinidadian males, including at least one teenage boy, are held in other detention centres. Six of the older boys and men–one 17, and five ages 18 to 20, were taken to Syria by family members when they were children.

Most came from three tight-knit communities in Trinidad and went to Syria and Iraq as families, taking their children.

Letta Tayler, Associate Director, Crisis and Conflict Division at Human Rights Watch said:
“I visited northeast Syria in 2019 and 2022 and on each of these visits, I made multiple trips to the camps and other detention centres holding foreigners including nationals of Trinidad and Tobago. I can tell, I’ve interviewed several Trinis detained in these camps and other detention centres and I can tell you first hand that the conditions are horrific.

She said: “We ask the Government if it cannot take everyone at once, to start with the Trinis who are most vulnerable including the children.”

“These nationals of Trinidad and Tobago desperately need rehabilitation and reintegration services. Adults can be prosecuted if appropriate.”

Human Rights Watch said it stands ready to work with the Government of T&T to help forge a path forward to resolve this detention crisis.

“Our research has found that these Trinidadian conditions are so dire and so inhuman in many cases that they may even amount to torture,” Tayler said.

“Many Trini’s are seriously ill and need surgery or other advanced medical care that is simply not available in Northeast Syria, which if any of you are not aware is a complex war zone. A very, very dangerous place. Turkey carried out airstrikes in recent months and as we know there was an earthquake whose repercussions came perilously close to these camps and prisons. Foreign men and older teens are held in prisons that are often overcrowded and in some cases rife with diseases such as tuberculosis.”

At least 36 countries have repatriated some or many of their nationals from Northeast Syria. Repatriations have increased since October 2022 with at least ten countries, including Barbados, bringing back some or many of their nationals. Many repatriated children are successfully reintegrating into their home countries, Human Rights Watch research has found.