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Friday 7 May 2021

Protest at Danish government’s withdrawal of residence permits from Syrian refugees

Representatives of eight UK Syrian organisations presented a letter this morning to the Danish Ambassador, to protest at Danish Government actions in withdrawing the residence permits of Syrian refugees.

Danish authorities have withdrawn or not extended the residence permits of more than 250 Syrian refugees, justifying their actions with a report claiming that conditions are now safe in Damascus. Experts cited in the Danish report have rejected its conclusions, and say their views have been misrepresented.

Read the letter in full (PDF)

Add your voice: Tell them Syria is not safe

The letter stated:
This action by Denmark is based on a false assessment of the situation in Syria, and is in breach of international law and the principle of non-refoulement, which guarantees that no one should be returned to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm.

It is in conflict with the stated policy of the European Union as laid out by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs in November 2020:

Conditions inside Syria at present do not lend themselves to the promotion of large-scale voluntary return, in conditions of safety and dignity in line with international law. The limited returns that have taken place illustrate the many obstacles and threats still faced by returning internally displaced persons and refugees, in particular forced conscription, indiscriminate detention, forced disappearances, torture, physical and sexual violence, discrimination in access to housing, land and property as well as poor or inexistent basic services.

The situation in Syria has not improved in the months since that judgement was made.

On receiving the letter, Ambassador Lars Thuesen said, “We are not forcing people to go back to Syria at this point.”

“But you are putting people in legal limbo,” replied Clara Connolly of Syria Solidarity UK.

Douna Haj Ahmed of the Syrian British Council said:
“Bombing and hostilities are not the only reasons that forced Syrians to flee their homes. Thousands of Syrians died under torture in the Assad regime’s prisons. Every refugee who is returned to Syria is under the threat of arbitrary arrest and death under torture, or of forced recruitment.

“Will the Danish government bear responsibility for the disappearance of any Syrian refugee deported to Syria, after entering the Syrian territories? Returning refugees is a crime against humanity and will remain linked historically to the decision of the Danish government.”

Afraa Hashem of Action for Sama said:
“Syria is not safe as long as the Assad regime is in it, and it is responsible for the crimes that occur in Syria. As a refugee like the Syrian refugees in Denmark, I need legal stability so that I can continue my life by studying and working, but I will not reach this stability if I feel that my residence is threatened by non-renewal.”

Photographs by Steve Eason