A family divided twice lives in the quiet Danish town of Vejle. The Alatas faced their first disaster in Syria when the father of the family was mutilated and executed by the forces of President Assad. They fled in 2015.
All five members of the family were granted temporary refugee status in Denmark. Sabrieh, the mother of the family, has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
He sadly recalls his last moments in Syria.
“There was fear and tears. First, my husband was murdered, then my children left the house. There were bombs, the noise of airplanes and the noise of raids in the houses ”.
Tearing apart a family
The anguish and suffering of the Alata family have not entirely ended with their arrival in Denmark. This March they received a letter informing them that their refugee status had been reassessed.
Older siblings, one already married and the other about to start high school, can stay in the country.
Sabrieh and her two daughters, ages 10 and 12, must now return to the Damascus region. The Danish authorities now consider it a safe place. This news has been another great blow to the family.
“Why would anyone want to come back?” Exclaims Sabrieh. She worries that they will arrest her if she returns or that they will ask where she and her family have been.
“I have two children and they ask me why they are not in the army. This regime has no mercy. Syria is not safe as far as I am concerned,” he adds.
The family appealed the decision and joined several protests. Around 200 other Syrian refugees, out of 35,000 Syrian citizens living in Denmark, are currently facing the same situation.
When the first revocation letters arrived, a protest sit-in began in front of Parliament. Samer, 57, participates in this protest. He has been a refugee since 2014. He went on a hunger strike and had to be hospitalized.
He tells us that he knows many people who fear that the Danish authorities will send them back to Syria. According to him, many of those people have already fled to other European countries. “As for those who returned to Syria, I have heard that one or two were detained at the airport, questioned immediately and since then they have not been heard from,” he adds.
The government’s position
The Danish government, led by the social democrats, says that its decision to revoke the refugee status of certain people is based on the conclusions of the Denmark Refugee Appeals Board. This board is an independent body that over the past year has reassessed the cases of some 1,200 refugees from the Damascus region as a whole.
The Social Democratic Minister of Immigration and Integration, Mattias Tesfaye, he refused to meet us. However, he sent us this quote:
- “Denmark has been open and honest from day one. We have made it clear to Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary and that the permit can be revoked if the need for protection ceases to exist.”
- “The Danish government’s approach is to provide protection to those who need it, but when conditions in their home country have improved, former refugees should return to their home country and re-establish their lives there.”
The Danish People’s Party, the third largest group in Parliament, agreed to speak to us on this matter.
Morten Messerschmidt, a member of parliament for the party, tells us that revoking refugee status “is not a political decision, it is a judicial decision, so you can argue why you should still stay in Denmark maybe for a year, or what to be”. more”.
This political party does not believe in multiculturalism and says that Denmark is not an immigration nation by tradition. Although technically part of the opposition, they support the government’s approach to this situation.
Is Syria safe again?
Activists say that there are currently only two countries in the European Union that consider the Damascus area to be a safe place for refugees to return to. One of them is Denmark, the other is Hungary.
Messerschmidt believes that it makes no sense to view the situation in this way. According to him, “it all depends on the individual cases. It is easy to have two different Syrians, one who can safely return to Damascus and the other who cannot.”
Danish authorities say the evaluations are carried out using “a wide collection of reports from different sources.”
TO Amnesty International Denmark, they see things differently. Lisa blinkenberg, a senior adviser to the NGO, says the shelling around Damascus may have stopped, but the lives of returning refugees remain in danger. They know of people returning to Syria who have been detained by security clearances and questioned. “Syrian forces have been behind serious human rights violations,” such as “ill-treatment, torture in jail and people who are disappearing,” he says.
What options do refugees have?
EU lawmakers have criticized this revocation policy. But Denmark is not subject to common European asylum standards.
At the University of Copenhagen, professor Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen specializes in migration and refugee law.
He informs us that due to the lack of diplomatic ties with Syria, Denmark cannot legally deport refugees whose status has been revoked. Therefore, their possible return must be voluntary.
However, he says that “for the people it affects, of course, it is a very severe step. Integration is stopped. They are not allowed to participate in society in the same way.”
He admits that they do not yet have any concrete examples of Syrians who have decided to return voluntarily after their status is revoked.
As the Alata family does not plan to voluntarily return to Syria, like many others, they could face limbo in a detention center in Denmark.
The case is now in the hands of his lawyers and they promise to keep fighting. As Abdo Ahmad, one of Sabrieh’s older sons, says: “I will not let them go back to Syria. The decision to send them back to Syria is completely unbearable, whatever the circumstances. Even if they had to go to a deportation camp it would be much easier to bear. It would be much easier for me than seeing them sent back to Syria. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism