Monday 18 March, 2019

Abducted by their father, Trini brothers now trapped in Syria

Mahmud and Ayyub Ferreira pictured before they were taken from Trinidad. Photo via The Guardian UK.

Mahmud and Ayyub Ferreira pictured before they were taken from Trinidad. Photo via The Guardian UK.

Taken by their father in 2014 when he joined ISIS, two young brothers from Trinidad are currently stranded at a camp for women and children linked to the Islamic militant group in Syria.

Mahmud Ferreira, 11, and his younger brother, Ayyub, 7, are at Camp Roj in Syria and are among an estimated 1200 foreign children trapped in the Eastern country since ISIS was driven out Raqqa in October 2017.

According to a report from the UK Guardian published on Saturday, the boys spent years living in the so-called caliphate before they were sent to Turkey with their Belgian stepmother.

The children were abandoned at the roadside, where they were then picked up by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces. They have been staying at the camp since.

The boys’ father is believed dead, while their stepmother is at another camp in Kurdish territory.

Their safety is dubious, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promising to invade north-east Syria, and US President Donald Trump’s announcement that some 2000 US troops will withdraw from Syria.  

Their mother, Felicia Perkins-Ferreira, who lives in Petit Valley, wants to see her boys returned home. And while international legal nonprofit Reprieve has stepped in to help bring her little ones home, it is unclear whether Government is supporting the group’s efforts to repatriate the children.

The article quotes Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a Christmas political fundraising event in Westmoorings as saying:

“We don’t have the machinery or the wherewithal to identify people and bring them back. We have to rely on the international community and the information of people who are in contact with their families out there.”

Through the efforts of Reprieve, the distraught mother who has suffered from panic attacks since her sons were taken by her ex-husband, has seen her children for the first time in a year after receiving video recordings from the non-profit group. Prior to this, she received intermittent news of her boys for the last year.

“I dreamed of them for three nights straight,” she told the UK Guardian via WhatsApp messages. “I’m just praying to get them back safe and sound.”

The boys have been traumatised by their time in the war-ravaged eastern country and while they cannot remember their mother’s name, they have held onto old photos of her for the last four years.  

Human rights lawyer and legal director at Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith, said it’s a race against time to have those stranded in Syria repatriated, especially where children are concerned.

“We had lots of alternatives for bringing these people home, but they all required time,” the lawyer said. “We don’t have that luxury any more. We have failed the children stuck in north-east Syria once already … We cannot do it again.”

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