Denmark to send almost 100 Syrian refugees home as Damascus is ‘safe’

Denmark has become the first European country to strip Syrian refugees of their residency permits, saying they must return home as Damascus is now safe to go back to.

In total, 94 Syrian refugees have had their permits removed, with Denmark’s immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye last month insisting that the Scandinavian country had been “open and honest from the start” about the situation, reported The Telegraph.

Mr Tesfaye added: “We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary. It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed.”

Denmark’s immigration minister went on to say that although the country would “give people protection for as long as it is needed,” but highlighted: “when conditions in the home country improve, a former refugee should return home and re-establish a life there.”

This comes as the country’s immigration department decided to extend the area of Syria it considers safe to include the Rif Dimashq Governorate, which includes the capital.

Germany has said that criminals can be deported back to Syria, but Denmark is the first European country to say that the same applies to ordinary refugees.

The Scandinavian country’s centre-Left Social Democratic Party has taken a strong anti-migration stance, with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen promising to aim for “zero” asylum seekers applying to live in Denmark.

About 900 Syrian refugees from the Damascus area had their temporary protection permits reassessed last year.

Now, the Danish government’s decision about the Rif Dimashq area of Syria will mean the same applies to a further 350 Syrian residents in the country.

In December 2019, Denmark’s Refugee Appeals Board ruled that conditions in Damascus were no longer so dangerous that they gave grounds for temporary protection to be given to asylum seekers.

Amnesty International UK told The Independent that they felt that this decision was “appalling” and a “reckless violation of Denmark’s duty to provide asylum.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, said: “The Danish government seeking to force people back into the hands of this brutal regime is an appalling affront to refugee law and people’s right to be safe from persecution.”

Mr Valdez-Symonds underlined concerned that Denmark’s actions risked “increasing incentives for other countries to abandon their own obligations to Syrian refugees.”

Not only will this put the lives of even more women, men and children at risk. It will add to reasons that cause people to travel ever further afield in search of safety and security for themselves and their family,” he added.

The refugees will be moved to a deportation camp, where they will have no access to education.

Denmark’s right-wing opposition party, the Liberal party, has called for the repatriation to be sped up through an agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. 

Mads Fuglede, the foreign spokesperson for the Liberal Party said on Sunday that a deal with the Syrian government could be used to prevent Syrians becoming stranded in deportation camps.

He told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper: “I can imagine an agreement that will only extend to the framework for sending people back, with some guarantees that you can return without being persecuted.”

However, Social Liberal spokesperson for immigration Andreas Steenberg did not agree, tweeting: “It is completely wrong to cooperate with one of history’s worst dictators… just to look tough (on immigration). These are people we’re talking about.”

Mr Fuglede later stressed in a Facebook post that his suggestion of the deal did not mean that he recognised the “criminal dictatorship” led by Mr Assad in Syria.

The news comes as UN investigators released a report on Monday saying that tens of thousands of Syrians arbitraily detained since the conflict began remain “forcibly disappeared.”

Thousands more have been subjected to sexual violence and death in detention as well as inhumane treatment and torture, the report said.

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