US denies lobbying government to allow reentry of citizens from terrorist zones

The United States government has denied reports that it had sought to lobby the Trinidad and Tobago government into allowing nationals from the oil rich twin island republic to freely reenter the county from terrorist zones across the globe.

In a statement,  the US embassy said Irfan Saeed – Director for the Office of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, U.S. Department of State – was not in  the twin island republic to lobby the government.

Irfan Saeed

Saeed, who attended a CVE symposium earlier this week, noted the importance of strengthening legislation such as  the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act as a crucial step to bolster regional security.

“What I’ve seen here in Trinidad and Tobago is amazing work by communities really trying to understand this issue and respond to it. The government is very engaged, not just with us but other global partners and communities here so that they can learn what this legal framework should look like (to fight terrorism).”

He described the Symposium as a “great brainstorming opportunity to understand what are the opportunities, what are the drivers, and what are the vulnerabilities that can produce foreign terrorist fighters. We have seen tremendous work already. I can guarantee you here in Trinidad and Tobago, it is one of the best partnerships that I have seen globally on this issue.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Mission Dexter Payne said the symposium represents the apex of over a year and a half of hard work in community centers, mosques, and government offices.  

“Each of you were carefully selected based on your dedication and involvement in the community, influence within society and your interest in becoming a leader in the fight against violence and violent extremism.”

Payne emphasized the fight against violent extremism must be a whole of society approach because there is no one profile for radicalization, there is no one push and pull factor that drives people towards extremist mobilization and there is no one solution or messaging campaign that will magically end this epidemic. 

The Embassy’s “SafeCommuniTT” network includes over 100 key influencers and credible messengers – a group of diverse individuals, ranging from top government officials to former convicts. 

The Embassy facilitated training and exchanges to the United States for many participants to learn best practices in CVE. 

Per capita, more citizens from Trinidad and Tobago have traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS than any other country in the Western Hemisphere. 

With the fall of ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) recruitment has diminished, however, continuing radicalization in T&T and the threat of returning FTFs has made CVE a U.S. government focus and one of the U.S. Embassy’s top priorities. 

The statement added that the US government is also working closely with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago” to protect citizens of both of our countries from terrorism.”  

It also said that it  views the passage of amendments strengthening Trinidad and Tobago’s Anti-Terrorism Act as a crucial step to bolster regional security. 

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