German Interior Minister floats evicting Syrian refugees who practice holidaymaking at home

“Syrian refugees that regularly spend holidays at home can’t seriously talk about being persecuted in Syria,” Horst Seehofer told Bild am Sonntag, adding that those following that logic “should be stripped of asylum.”

Immigration authorities are closely following recent developments in Syria so that “repatriations” are carried out “when the situation allows.”

His comment came as a wrap-up to the tabloid’s report which highlighted Syrians who have consistently visited families or relatives back in their home cities without reporting these trips to German authorities upon return.

Once granted asylum, a refugee is not allowed to travel to their country of origin, family emergencies such as the illness of or death of a close relative being the only exceptions. But a Bild correspondent – himself a Syrian refugee – learned that a sizeable number of migrants manage to cheat the system.

Working undercover, he visited travel agencies where he was told that arranging a trip to Syria is no problem. “You only need to have a Syrian passport or collect a ‘return certificate’ at a Syrian embassy, we’ll take care of the rest,” one travel agent said.

The “holidaymakers” usually embark on a direct flight to Lebanon and Turkey, then cross into Syria by bus. Going back to Germany is a bit more difficult, it turns out. The newspaper’s investigator believes that refugees use Syrian IDs to return to a third country, but present German asylum papers once in the EU.

Several Syrians told Bild that they have done it regularly to see their children or meet with relatives. The practice is steadily becoming commonplace since Berlin amended its refugee laws, which hamper migrants’ attempts to bring their families to Germany.

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The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is aware that such a phenomenon exists but doesn’t have any exact figures. A spokesperson for the agency said only that roughly 40,000 Syrians were stripped of their refugee status this year. Since 2015, over 780,000 Syrian citizens have made it to Germany, according to BAMF statistics.

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