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The New Arab Staff

HRW slams Denmark's 'flawed' plan to deport Syrian refugees

Denmark is the first country in Europe to threaten Syrian refugees with deportation [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 April, 2021

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The rights watchdog has warned that Denmark's decisions could 'lead a worrying trend in European refugee policy'.

Human Rights Watch has slammed Denmark's removal of protections for Syrian refugees, saying that the country's "flawed" country reports have led to "flawed refugee policies".

In a joint statement on Monday co-signed by Syria researchers, the rights watchdog criticised Denmark's attempts to repatriate Syrians, including by designating Damascus as "safe".

HRW highlighted that Denmark used its testimonies to the Danish Immigration Service for a country of origin (COI) report on Damascus, but said its views were not reflected in subsequent policymaking decisions. COI reports are often used by countries and EU agencies to inform the asylum decision-making process.

"We believe that conditions do not presently exist anywhere in Syria for safe returns and any return must be voluntary, safe, and dignified, as the EU and UNHCR have clearly stated," HRW said in the joint statement.

Danish authorities officially reclassified Damascus as "safe" in its 2019 COI report on the Syrian capital and surrounding areas. HRW said that its "expert opinion, background information and other advice to the Danish Immigration Service was underappreciated" in the process of producing the COI.

The 2019 "safe" classification paved the way for restrictions to be placed on assistance provided to Syrian refugees, particularly those from Damascus. This was seen last month, when 94 Syrian refugees were informed that their temporary residency permits would not be renewed.

Danish authorities have refused to renew the residence permits of at least 189 Syrians since last summer. The residency status of another 500 people originally from Damascus and surrounding areas are currently under review.

The Scandinavian nation is the first country in Europe to threaten Syrian refugees with deportation.

"Danish policy could lead a worrying trend in European refugee policy towards the revocation of residency and other restrictions in relation to the latter group," HRW warned in its statement.

"As such, as a matter of policy, no Syrian can presently be reasonably believed to be safe enough to remove their protected status in order to force their return to Damascus, nor to anywhere else in Syria," the joint statement added.

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