The way an eight-year-old boy who returned with his mother and sister from Syria eight years ago has been left ‘stateless’, is disgusting and sets a worrying precedent, according to criminologist Dr Daurius Figuiera.
The Sunday Guardian told the story of an eight-year-old boy (who cannot be named) who has been denied documents and, in turn, access to an education since his return to Trinidad and Tobago.
The boy, who was born in Syria, was repatriated with his mother and sister from Turkey. They fled ISIS-controlled territories where they were taken by the boy’s father.
The father claimed he was going to Turkey to play professional football.
“We know that there are children like that, and on top of that, there are children who are orphans, they have no mother and no father– born in Syria, so it’s a worrying precedent that was set with this young man. Remember how long the young man has been back in this country? And you continue to treat the young man as if he’s an alien, as if he’s some kind of thing other than human, as if he’s an animal in a zoo.
“You are discriminating against a child contrary to all the values that you espouse and your Children’s Authority and all what you’re saying, you’re believing and what you’re signed to with all the conventions and the rights of the child and everything else, that child, because he was born in Syria under the control of Islamic State, has no rights. That is what you’re telling us,” Figuiera said.
The author of the book ‘The Islamic State and Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago in the 21st Century” says the child’s story exposed a disturbing reality to the public.
He said with at least 56 T&T children in camps in Northeast Syria waiting to return, the question is whether all of them will be treated like the 8-year-old upon their eventual return.
“How are you going to treat the orphans? Who have no mother, no father. He still has a mother…The fact of the matter is all of these women and children need a process of rehabilitation and reintegration. So that they can re-enter society and live here once again. If that is the way you’re going to treat the children, what are you inviting them to do in response?
“The Government has no choice. It is now a geopolitical necessity for Trinidad and Tobago to remove its people from the camps. And come July, when Wahid finishes her jail term, and she is deported with her children, the process kicks in on whether Trinidad and Tobago is ready or not because the United States of America has the capacity to load up Wahid and her children on a military plane and drop her in Piarco,” the criminologist said.
Meanwhile, Figuiera rubbished claims that the returnees from Syrian camps will pose a major national security threat.
Last week, criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad claimed that the group’s return could create a ‘quantum shift’ in the criminal landscape. He believed the high level of disenchantment among the country’s youth could create an environment ripe for extremist ideology to flourish.
Figuiera called his fellow criminologist’s claims an act of ‘scaremongering.’
“That is pure lunacy because he is looking, he is looking at gangland in Trinidad and Tobago and he wants to make a supposition without evidence. So he wants to create this supposition that because they left Trinidad to go to the Islamic State, they are infected with this disease and this disease is so bad that they can come back to Trinidad and create a whole new criminal order in Trinidad and Tobago with this disease. 24 women and a whole collection of children in a camping lodge has that ability?
“At most there are 11 of the men still alive. Out of the 11, only one we know of who was a frontline soldier for Islamic State. All the rest were ancillary support staff as you see to a war machine. So, you want to tell me 11 of them will come and create a whole new criminal order in Trinidad? Who in transnational organized crime are allowing 11 of them to come and create a whole new criminal order in Trinidad and Tobago to destabilize Trinidad and Tobago and make things bad for their business?” Figuiera said in response to Seepersad’s claims.
The author said the women in Syrian camps have been screened by the Kurds and the United States government and have been found to offer no substantial threat.
“All the hardened, hardened women committed to Islamic State are in Al Hol Camp. Not a single woman from Trinidad is in Hol Camp because the Americans and the Kurds assessed the Trinidad and Tobago survivors and moved them to Roj Camp, which is a smaller camp. So you cannot speak about what is going on in Al Hol Camp and refer to Trinidad and Tobago women and children, because they passed the test.
“Islamic State does not attack Roj Camp. Islamic State does not openly mobilize its ghosts in Roj Camp and launch attacks in Roj Camp. Al Hol Camp is the breeding ground of Islamic State insurgency, not Roj. So do not talk about Hol and refer to the Trinidad women and children as terrorist threats, because they’re not there,” the criminologist said.
Between 2013 and 2016, at least 130 T&T nationals travelled to Islamic State (ISIS)-controlled territories in the Middle East - the most people per capita in the western hemisphere, according to Human Rights Watch.
In late February, Human Rights Watch called on the T&T government to repatriate its citizens from camps in Northeast Syria, saying that there were more than 90 nationals in the camps.
According to a UN Human Rights Report, Trinidad and Tobago has repatriated five or less children from the Syrian camps.
The report found that those in the camps lived in ‘atrocious’ conditions; conditions, the report said, could amount to crimes against humanity.
Attempts to get comment from Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Attorney General Reginald Dumas SC on the issue were unsuccessful.