Trinidad government may block return of ISIS fighters
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- The Trinidad and Tobago government is currently considering curtailing the current right of free, unrestricted and unhindered entry of nationals who try to return to the country after joining and fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon confirmed on Tuesday that discussions are currently taking place with the attorney general on changing the relevant law for the safety and security of Trinidad and Tobago.
“This government wants to make it abundantly clear that it recognises the global threat posed by ISIS and the horrific atrocities recently committed on the French people by the ISIS phenomena,” Dillon said in the Senate, outlining heightened security measures by local authorities following last Friday’s terrorist attacks on Paris.
Dillon said the following measures have been instituted:
• Tightened immigration controls at air/sea ports.
• Reinforced aerial/maritime surveillance patrols.
• Tightened customs inspections.
• Reinforced security management at air/sea ports.
• Heightened systems also apply to the “ground” in Trinidad and Tobago.
• Continued relations with the Joint Regional Communication Centre and Regional Intelligence Centre to facilitate necessary intelligence to allow Trinidad and Tobago to deal with the ISIS phenomenon.
• Continued liaising with international partners regarding intelligence and information that can be provided based on their intelligence agencies in areas of operations.
• Continued liaising with international partners regarding intelligence and information especially regarding Trinidad and Tobago citizens who are participating in ISIS.
Senator Wayne Sturge asked how many Trinidad and Tobago nationals were actively involved with ISIS. Dillon said he could not give an accurate figure at that time and was awaiting official confirmation from international partners.
“One has to be exact. I prefer to wait on the exact figure based on intelligence,” he added.
Dillon had previously estimated that around 80-plus Trinidad and Tobago nationals, including families, had joined ISIS. However, according to US intelligence sources, the number of Trinidadians that have joined with ISIS could be closer to 130.
Sturge said legislative changes to change current unrestricted access would involve first amending the Immigration Act to provide for immediate detention on re-entry and interrogation.
“The second thing needed is to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act regarding those returnees. It can’t be business as usual where they are free to return without hindrance, knowing their ideologies are not in synch with ours and that their stay with ISIS has equipped them to carry out terrorist activities,” he added.
At a Pentagon briefing in March, General John Kelly, commander of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), said he was concerned that those who are radicalized enough to leave the Caribbean to join ISIS would return from fighting in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East with greater terrorism skills and motivations.
The United Nations had also warned that Trinidad and Tobago is one of a number of countries with Muslim populations that is being used as a recruiting ground for the terror group.