The Foundation of Islamic Relief, Support and Training (FIRST) has expressed support for the new proposed Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020.

The bill, which was reported on first by the Guardian Newspaper, outlines specific measures to treat with nationals who are returning from conflict zones such as Syria and other Middle East countries.

The Bill proposes an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act, enabling the Minister of National Security to execute a Temporary Exclusion Order (T.E.O), thereby excluding nationals who have engaged in terrorism related activity abroad and to ensure that when they do return, it is done in a controlled manner with a Permit To Return (P.T.R) that has specific conditions.

It also introduces a system to deal with such persons called “returnee” in the Bill. It defines a “returnee” as a person who is returning from a geographical area where terrorist acts occurred or are occurring and who is not charged for an offence.

It also covers persons who are in such geographical areas and are coming to Trinidad and Tobago for the first time, for example, children who were born abroad.

The Bill proposes the application of special measures for returnees, including their children, allowing them to return to Trinidad and Tobago by way of a permit issued by the Minister of National Security, breach of which constitute offences.

In a media release FIRST said it commends the Government for its efforts in treating with this issue and understand that security and safety of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago is always of paramount importance.

FIRST acknowledged that the Government addresses valid national security concerns in the Bill.

It said, therefore, it is in the best interest of all citizens of Trinidad & Tobago that the measures outlined in the Bill be implemented.

It added that it is also pleased with the improved collaboration between the Government and the Muslim Community to work together to address pertinent issues of national security and his working relationship with the Government is important, as the issue at hand requires a Multi-Agency approach.

FIRST SAID it is only a matter of time before Trinidad and Tobago nationals return or are deported and as such there must be laws in place to control and monitor their return. It said, “Although we may not fully agree with all aspects of the Bill, it demonstrates an effort by the Government to work towards the return of its citizens.”

The Foundation of Islamic Relief, Support and Training (FIRST) comprises a team of individuals from different fields, including scholars, Imams, community activists, prison chaplains, lawyer, social workers, writers, poets and youth workers.

Speaking with Guardian Media Attorney General Faris Al Rawi said as ISIS is “crumbling and retreating,” there are people incarcerated or in camps in Syria and other countries in the Middle East because they are known fighters or supporters of the terrorist organisation.

He said because of this the world is in the process of trying to get countries to receive their nationals and Trinidad and Tobago has taken note.

“The law which we sent out effectively introduces a controlled measure for people when they return from zones such as that.” He explained.

He described the legislation as a very important targeted piece of law developed with stakeholders, including foreign governments.

“Without this particular piece of law once they come into Trinidad and Tobago and they have experience; they have passports, no charges against them, you have no evidence against them; they just return to society. It is a very different situation under the law which we propose.”

Al Rawi said the bill would be brought to Parliament during this session.