Roger Waters explained the role he played in the rescue of two boys who’d been kidnapped from Trinidad and then abandoned on a roadside in Syria – currently ranked the most violent nation in the world.

The former Pink Floyd leader funded flights and hotel rooms after failing in an attempt to persuade governments to assist. He was waiting in Switzerland to welcome Felicia Perkins-Ferreira after she was reunited with her sons Ayyub and Mahmud -- ages seven and 11, respectively -- after four years.

The boys were kidnapped by their father, an Islamic State fighter, in 2014. He took them to Syria, where he’s thought to have died during fighting, and they ended up in the care of his new wife. When she was faced with the prospect of not being able to escape the country as long as she had the children with her, they were left behind and wound up in a refugee establishment called Camp Roj.

They were rescued and reunited with Perkins-Ferreira by the activist charity Reprieve.

Waters became involved after Reprieve lawyer Clive Stafford Smith told him about the situation. “The stepmother, who is a white Belgian, they were told that only the white people could pass the Syrians, so these little children get left on the side of the road,” Stafford Smith told Channel 4 News. “Roger paid for a bunch of this stuff. He didn’t just do that, he came with us, and I have to say I have great gratitude to Roger, also a bunch of other people. We made a good team, beating up on people who didn’t want to get it done.”

“I’ve known Clive for a number of years and I’ve followed his human rights work pretty closely,” Waters said, adding that he’d “been involved a little bit with Reprieve in the past. ... By chance I was passing through London at the end a tour, and I’d been meaning to look him up. … We had some lunch and he told me about the predicament of Mahmud and Ayyub and Felicia, and it moved me deeply. And so I said, ‘I wanna help – is there anything I can do?’”

He wrote to the government of Trinidad and Tobago, and wrote an op-ed piece for the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, which he sent to British authorities, but said he received no reply from any officials.

Waters said that, for “long-winded” reasons, he said he couldn’t travel to Syria with the rescue party. “Clive and the others went across the Tigris and went to the camp and got the boys. It took hours and hours and hours and hours, much longer than you would imagine, to get them back and through all the police checkpoints and whatever. But when I heard they were on the road I was entirely overcome and treated myself to a glass to cheap white wine. They got back around midnight, and to see those beautiful children and Felicia. … It was deeply, deeply moving.”

“That was the first time I’ve slept properly in four years,” Perkins-Ferreira told the Guardian of the moment she left Syria with her sons. “I often wouldn’t eat for days, thinking, ‘If they’re not eating, why should I?’… I’m really, really grateful and I wish I could meet [all the people who helped] all in one and embrace them.”

Waters said that many other displaced people remained in camps, despite Syrian authorities having asked the victims’ nations to take them home. “The predicament remains for many British nationals who are in Camp Roj and other places in northeast Syria,” he said. “There is a great reluctance from Her Majesty’s Government to support moves to get them back.”