Activists call on Trinidad to repatriate citizens in Syria

Feb 27, 2023, 4:44 PM | Updated: Feb 28, 2023, 6:46 am

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Trinidad & Tobago to repatriate more than 90 of its citizens who have been detained as Islamic State suspects and family members in war-torn Syria, noting that at least 56 of them are children.

Some of them were whisked to Syria as children by relatives, while others said they erroneously thought they were going to visit a Muslim utopia.

“These children never chose to live under ISIS, yet they are suffering because of their parents’ decisions,” said Jo Becker, the Human Rights Watch child advocacy director.

Most of the Trinidadians were detained in late 2018 and early 2019 by U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group in northeast Syria and are currently held in makeshift camps that activists say are dangerous and lack food, water, medical care and education.

Of the more than 90 Trinidadians detained in Syria, some 21 are women, and 44 of the at least 56 children detained are 12 years old or younger, according to the human rights organization, which said it interviewed six Trinidadians held in camps.

Among them is a 17-year-old boy whose father took him to Syria in 2014.

“My father lied to me. He told me that we were going to Disneyland,” the organization quoted the boy as saying. “It’s not my fault. It’s my father’s fault. …. I just want to come back home.”

A 19-year-old Trinidadian man said: “My dad told me I was going to go to a hotel in Egypt and swim in a pool. I was 11 years old,” according to the organization.

Trinidad & Tobago has repatriated only a handful of its citizens in recent years despite at least 130 of them traveling to ISIS-held territories from 2013 to 2016, the most people per capita of any country in the Western Hemisphere, according to Human Rights Watch.

Many of them came from three communities in Trinidad: Rio Claro, Chaguanas and Diego Martin. One of them was even featured as a fighter in an ISIS online magazine.

Links to terrorism are not rare for the twin-island nation, which was the site of the only Islamic revolt in the Western Hemisphere when a radical group launched a violent coup attempt in 1990. Some of the veterans of that coup have since helped to radicalize families, which in turn have radicalized communities, according to experts.

With no courts available in northeast Syria to prosecute suspected foreign ISIS members, Human Rights Watch argued that authorities in Trinidad could prosecute citizens once they’re repatriated, noting that a 2005 anti-terrorism act gives officials jurisdiction over those offenses even if they’re committed abroad.

The office of Trinidad’s prime minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2018, the government created a committee to repatriate and reintegrate Trinidadians from conflict areas, but officials are still working on draft policy and legislation.

At least 10 countries including neighboring Barbados have repatriated some of their citizens since October last year, according to Human Rights Watch.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Image: Actor David McCallum attends an event for "NCIS" during the 2009 Monte Carlo Television Fest...

Associated Press

David McCallum, star of hit series ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘NCIS,’ dies at 90

Actor David McCallum, who was the eccentric medical examiner in the popular "NCIS," has died. He was 90.

5 hours ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests indicating a positive result are photographed in New York, April...

Associated Press

Biden administration announces $600M to produce and distribute COVID tests

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household

10 hours ago

FILE - The Amazon app is seen on a smartphone, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Marple Township, Pa. Afte...

Associated Press

Amazon is investing up to $4 billion in AI startup Anthropic in growing tech battle

Amazon is investing up to $4 billion in Anthropic and taking a minority stake in the artificial intelligence startup, the two companies said Monday.

13 hours ago

Image: People picket outside of Paramount Pictures studios during the Hollywood writers strike on M...

Andrew Dalton, Associated Press

Writers guild, Hollywood studios reach tentative deal to end strike; no actor deal yet

Union leaders and Hollywood studios reached a tentative agreement Sunday to end a historic screenwriters strike. No deal is yet in the works for actors.

19 hours ago

Water spills over the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, which runs along the Washington and Ore...

Associated Press

Biden deal with tribes promises $200M for Columbia River salmon reintroduction

The Biden administration has pledged over $200 million toward reintroducing salmon in the Upper Columbia River Basin in an agreement with tribes that includes a stay on litigation for 20 years.

3 days ago

FILE - Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington. ...

Associated Press

Sen. Menendez, wife indicted on bribe charges as probe finds $100,000 in gold bars, prosecutors say

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his wife have been indicted on charges of bribery.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Activists call on Trinidad to repatriate citizens in Syria