PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday January 23, 2019 – Two Trinidadian minors were reunited with their mother in Syria, more than four years after their father took them to the Middle Eastern country when he joined ISIS.
And according to international media reports, which state that the boys were assisted in their plight by Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters, they are expected to return to the land of their birth after undergoing a rehabilitation programme in the United Kingdom.
Ayyub Ferreira, 8, and his brother, Mahmud Ferreira, 13, were on Monday released by Kurdish administration of northern Syria into the care of their mother, Felicia Perkins-Ferreira, who had flown from the twin-island republic to join her sons. They had been kidnapped from Trinidad by their father in June 2014 – the same year ISIS declared a “caliphate” that attracted thousands of foreign Islamists and their families – and spent several years in ISIS territory before their father sent them towards Turkey with their Belgian stepmother.
They were found by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces and held at the Roj refugee camp in Syria with the families of dead or imprisoned militants. The boys’ father is believed to have died in the fighting and their stepmother is being held in a different Kurdish camp.
Lawyer and rights activist Clive Stafford Smith told the AFP news agency that he had tracked down Perkins-Ferreira and then contacted Waters, founder of famous rock and roll band Pink Floyd, who lent his private jet to fly the boys and their mother out of Syria. They were flown to Switzerland on Monday and then yesterday they travelled to London where the boys will receive counselling to help them recover from their ordeal before returning to Trinidad.
“We’re going to make sure that they get on with a really productive, decent life,” Stafford Smith said. “One of them said he wanted to be a professional cricketer and the other one said he wanted to be a professional footballer.”
The UK Guardian quoted the mother as saying she was “really, really grateful and I wish I could meet [all the people who helped] all in one and embrace them”.
Perkins-Ferreira had told the newspaper that said she had been left traumatized by her separation from her sons: “I often wouldn’t eat for days, thinking: ‘If they’re not eating, why should I?’”
In a statement issued after the international media reports of the family being reunited, the Ministry of National Security in Trinidad and Tobago said that when the case came to the attention of the Nightingale Team — a special unit set up to deal with possible repatriation and reintegration of citizens who have been held in refugee and detention camps in Syria and Iraq — a “complex and detailed investigation and verification exercise to ascertain the facts” was carried out. However, it said when the mother was contacted and informed that it was possible her sons were being held at a refugee camp in Syria, “her response was not an enthusiastic one and there was no record of her reporting that the children had been abducted by their father and taken to Syria (or even out of Trinidad and Tobago)”.
It noted that “upon the return of any minors or adult nationals from ISIS battlefronts, the Nightingale Team and its various elements have different roles to play, including, assessing the best environment for minors who may have experienced the trauma, and ill effects, of being in, or around, war zones and battlefronts.
“It is expected that any such returnees will be assessed by the appropriate authorities upon their return,” the statement added.