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Denmark: What can happen to the Syrian refugees who refuse to return? | News about refugees

Copenhagen, Denmark – Ten years after the war in Syria broke out, Denmark is telling many Syrian refugees who have sought safety back in the European country.

About 500 Syrians have been thrown into this uncertainty and fear as Denmark prepares to cancel temporary residency permits for refugees from Damascus and Rif Damascus, areas currently covered by the Danish authorities. The circuit claims to be “safe”.

This is the only European country to reach such a conclusion.

“I remember a lot of bad things from Syria. People died right in front of me, ”Sageda Salem, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee living in the southern Danish city of Odense, told Al Jazeera.

Like the Danish government reassessment of residence permit Among hundreds of Syrian refugees from those “safe” areas, traumatic memories are flooding with Sageda, who arrived in Denmark in 2016 with her mother and four sisters.

“I feel stress, fear and sadness when I read the letter from the authorities saying that my license will be reevaluated. Now I don’t even know if I should continue my studies or let it be.

Many of the refugees were believed to refuse to return to war-torn Syria, a decision that could lead them to be forced into deportation facilities or “leave centers”. Some will inevitably try to flee to other European countries to seek asylum elsewhere.

‘A giant paradox’

Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark’s Minister for Immigration and Integration, declined Al Jazeera’s request for an interview but submitted a written statement.

“The decision to reevaluate these residency permits is based on the conclusion of the general security situation in Damascus, from the Danish Refugee Appeals Commission,” the statement said.

“The council’s conclusion is that the overall security situation in the area in and around Damascus has improved to the point where the need to protect those who are not persecuted individually … ceases to exist.

But Denmark’s controversial decision has met with domestic and international criticism.

“The Syrian people have no interest in putting pressure on the Syrian refugees to return to Syria, including the regime-ruled areas where many fear they will be imprisoned or tortured. or even arbitrary killing. [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad’s security force in retaliation for the escape, ”US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the United Nations Security Council in March.

UNHCR, the European Union and many human rights organizations have also condemned any moves that put pressure on Syrian refugees to return.

About 32,000 Syrian refugees have settled in Denmark since 2011 [File: Martin Lehmann/AP Photo/POLFOTO]

Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, professor of migration studies at the University of Copenhagen, told Al Jazeera that the government’s stance was a “huge paradox”.

“Denmark does not officially recognize the Assad regime. On the one hand, the government said: ‘This man is a brutal dictator who killed and persecuted a large portion of his population.’ On the other hand, they want to send back those who fled the regime.

On Monday, 8 out of 12 experts cited by the Danish Immigration Service in a report claiming Damascus and the Rif Damascus are a safe zone condemned the conclusion in a joint statement issued by the Organization Watch. Human rights announced.

“This decision used our testimony to the Danish Immigration Service of the Country of Origin (COI) report on Damascus, but we do not recognize our views in further conclusions or policies. According to the government and we also do not think that Denmark’s Syrian refugee policy fully reflects actual conditions on the ground, ”the statement said.

The war in Syria has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and displaced the population.

About 32,000 Syrian refugees have settled in Denmark since 2011. Five thousand have received asylum and temporary residence permits because of the dangerous security situation in the Middle Eastern country – not because they were swarmed. personal pressure.

Syrians from Damascus and the Rif Damascus that have been granted this temporary protection will have their residence permits reassessed.

The decision came into effect in December 2019, when the Refugee Appeals Board argued that Damascus was safe enough to return to people who had not been suppressed by al-Assad’s administration.

In February 2021, this security assessment was also applied to Rif Damascus.

“Many of the people affected by this decision are vulnerable refugees: families, women and children. They fled the war and could not prove that they were oppressed by the regime personally, so they only received temporary protection, ”said Martin Lemberg-Pedersen.

“People have settled here, some have completed education and they have built lives here. And now many people will lose all their rights and be forced into the so-called leaving position. “

Other countries like Sweden and the UK have also regulated that general security in Damascus has improved significantly, but neither country has come to a decision that Syrians can return safely after years of living. exile in a foreign country.

Everyone carries the banner ‘#Refugees Welcome Solidarity’ during the rally in Aarhus, Denmark, September 12, 2015 [File: Sergey Polezhaka/Reuters]

Denmark has no formal diplomatic relations with Syria and cannot force the repatriation of people if they refuse to leave voluntarily.

Most will end up at one of Denmark’s “departure centers”, where conditions have been described by the European Commission on Torture Prevention (CPT) as one of the worst in Europe. .

“Deportation centers are like open prisons. You cannot work, meaning you have no money, you cannot study and you are not allowed to cook your own food, ”said Michala Bendixen, founder of the Refugees Welcome activity group.

“No activity at all. They are purposefully designed to discourage people as much as possible so people give up and leave Denmark ”.

Radwan Jomaa, a husband and father of three, has lost his residence permit.

Returning to Syria was not an option, he said, as he was wanted by the government for his opposition activities. He is currently awaiting a ruling on his final appeal.

“If we lose the case, I’ll have to live with my family in this place (detention center) that’s supposed to be worse than the prison. Going back to Damascus would mean death for us, ”Jomaa told Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, Sageda Salem is also preparing to fight for the right to continue living in Denmark, pending a decision by the immigration authority.

“I will do whatever I can to fight for the right to stay here, because I will never go back to Syria in my lifetime,” she said.



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