Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne –
MINISTER of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne on Wednesday said the Government was open to offers of collaboration to return to TT the families of local men who went to fight for ISIS in Syria, but said such a repatriation could not be done overnight.
He was answering reporters questions at a briefing at his ministry at Prada Street, St Clair, the day after New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) held a briefing to urge the Government to bring the families back to TT. HRW’s Letta Taylor said her group’s report cited a group of 100 TT nationals in camps in Syria, consisting of 13 men (including a teen boy), 21 women and 56 children, while her colleague Jo Becker said a survey of 100 children repatriated elsewhere had found they had integrated/reintegrated well into their countries.
Browne said Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, had responded to HRW. Browne himself had not seen the HRW report.
“The public is well aware there is ongoing work, preparatory work; that the Government is committed to treating with this issue in a serious matter; but the public is also well aware that the Government is also treating with the very serious national security implications of persons of any category who would be returning or potentially returning from conflict zones.
“So that is not going to be an overnight development.”
Browne said a multi-ministry, multi-disciplinary team was now hard at work in such regard.
Asked if he had considered offers of help from the US Government to return the families of ISIS fighters to TT, Browne said, “What I can say is that we are always open to partnerships and collaborations. That’s the way we conduct our business.
“But on this issue it is not just a case of conveying individuals from the Middle East to the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago.
“When we speak about preparatory work and the types of steps that are required, we are also talking about treating with the domestic national security environment. “That’s something that we and our national stakeholders have to treat with, but as I said we are always open to and we always welcome collaborations with our key international partners including the United States.”