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The New Arab Staff

Rights group slams Denmark's 'dangerous' decision to return Syrian refugees

Denmark has declared the Syrian capital to be safe [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 April, 2021

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Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has called on Denmark to rethink its decision to return Syrian refugees to Damascus.
A European human rights monitor has expressed grave concern over Denmark's decision to send 94 Syrian refugees back to Damascus, after declaring to the Syrian capital to be "no longer dangerous".

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged the Danish government to reconsider its residency permit judgment and reassess the conditions in Damascus and its countryside.

In March, Denmark revoked the residency permits of 94 Syrian refugees living in the Scandinavian nation and deemed Damascus to be "no longer sufficiently dangerous to give grounds for international protection".

In a statement the rights group pointed out that Syria is still witnessing war crimes, crimes against humanity and dire living conditions. 

"We call on Denmark to immediately reconsider this dangerous announcement that signifies a drift in Danish politics towards the far-right," the group said.

"The recent decision considering safe the whole Rif Dimashq Governorate, including Damascus, means that a further 350 Syrians will have to undergo a reassessment that could lead to a revocation of their refugee status," they added. 

The monitoring group pointed to a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which explored the conditions in the war-torn country. 

"The sheer volume, scale and consistency of government policies and acts that the Commission has found to amount to crimes against humanity have continued unabated for nearly 10 years, without any sign that the government intends to discontinue them," the report said.

While fighting in and around the Syrian capital has reduced considerably in recent years, civilians are still at the mercy of the brutal Assad regime, and face arbitrary arrest, torture, a lack of basic services and food, and forced conscription.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights recorded 143 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in Syria in March 2021 alone. 

The monitoring group also highlighted the new lives that Syrian refugees have created for themselves in Denmark.

Read more: Syria Insight: Fears for Syrian refugees in Denmark after government classifies Damascus as 'safe area'

"Most of the Syrian refugees whose residence permits have been or are being revoked have already started over in Denmark several years ago, studying, working and integrating into the Danish society," the statement said.

"The new policy would put into jeopardy the established situation of those refugees who, thanks to their long stay, have developed strong family, social and economic links in Denmark," it added.

Denmark is the first EU country to send refugees back to Syria, but simultaneously refuses to negotiate with the Assad regime to ensure that their safety can be guaranteed. 

"An insufficiently grounded revocation of refugee status and residency permits will only lead to a climate of uncertainty and fear among the refugee population, that will menace profoundly their integration in the Danish community," said Michela Pugliese, legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor.

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