Saturday, October 16

Denmark revokes residency for Syrian refugees who deem the country ‘safe’ for return


Faeza Satouf was granted asylum in Denmark in 2015, having fled the civil war in Syria with his family.

Six years later, despite her integration into Danish society, she has been told that she must return, alone and soon.

Denmark has become the first European country to start revoking the residence permits of some Syrian refugees, a decade since the fighting began.

He believes the capital Damascus and its neighboring regions are safe to return to, although experts disagree.

The Danish government argues that it made it clear to Syrian refugees that they were being offered temporary protection.

The policy follows years of mass migration to Europe, which peaked in 2015 with one million newcomers to the continent.

‘I will be arrested upon my return’

Satouf says that, unlike Denmark, there are no laws in Syria that can protect her.

“My father is wanted in Syria, so of course they will arrest me upon my return,” he said.

And he cannot understand why a country that promoted integration now tells him that he must go.

In the past six years, Satouf has learned Danish, graduated from high school with great success, and is now studying to be a nurse while working in a supermarket.

Denmark and Syria do not have diplomatic relations, so if people refuse to return there, they cannot be forced.

Instead, they are sent to deportation centers, which according to the Red Cross are like prisons.

The single women are likely to be sent to the Kaershovedgaard deportation center, a remote building complex about 300 kilometers west of Copenhagen.

Access is strictly limited, but Red Cross photos show rudimentary infrastructure where cooking is prohibited and activities are restricted. Danish lessons are not even allowed.

“It’s like a prison, but they are allowed out during the day,” said Gerda Abildgaard, who has visited the center for several years for the Red Cross.

Men who could be drafted into Bashar al Assad’s army are not currently being told to return.

“This is way below the gender line,” said Satouf’s attorney, Niels-Erik Hansen. “When I have a male client, I will send him immediately to the Immigration Service and he will get asylum in three weeks. A female client will be rejected … and we will have to take this case to the refugee board. So when I look at the pile of cases that I am representing on the board, it is about 90% women and 10% men. “

Policy change

Denmark, previously known for its openness and willingness to welcome those in need, was the first to sign the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

The policy change is the result of a government led by left-wing Social Democrats, whose immigration stance has changed to resemble that of a right-wing party.

Although the number of asylum seekers in Denmark has plummeted since the peak of the migration crisis, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reiterated in January a vision of having “zero asylum seekers”.

Standing in front of the heavy doors of the deportation center, Abildgaard pleads: “But is Syria safe again? It is only Denmark who says that. All other European countries do not say that. Only Denmark. “

Human Rights Watch said this week that “there are currently no conditions anywhere in Syria for a safe return.”

Furthermore, the children’s rights group Save the Children said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” to discover that at least 70 refugee children are at risk of being expelled to Syria.

In government-controlled areas, the security situation has stabilized, but entire neighborhoods are destroyed and many people have no homes to return to. Basic services such as water and electricity are poor or non-existent.

In addition, compulsory military service, indiscriminate detentions and enforced disappearances continue.

“This is also a lack of solidarity with the rest of Europe,” said Hansen, Satouf’s lawyer. “As the first country to start withdrawing residence permits for these refugees, we are, in fact, putting pressure on people to go to other European countries.”

On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered outside parliament to protest the deportation orders, surrounded by Danish friends, classmates and coworkers.

A nervous Satouf told her story to the crowd, along with others: a brother and sister facing separation, siblings whose residence permits expire the next day, a high school student surrounded by her Danish classmates, a woman single who could not understand how Denmark, with its claim to defend and defend women’s rights, could be doing this.

“They say I should marry someone who has political asylum to stay here,” said Nevien Alrahal, who traveled to Denmark with her elderly father and who faces her final appeal on Friday. “That is a choice I don’t want to make.”


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