Denmark braces for protests against plans to repatriate Syrians

Denmark braces for protests against plans to repatriate Syrians
3 min read
19 May, 2021
Amnesty International backed Wednesday's protests across Denmark against Copenhagen's decision to revoke residence permits for Syrian refugees.
After ruling that Damascus and surrounding areas were safe to return to, Denmark has revoked the residence status of at least 200 Syrians [Anadolu Agency via Getty]

Protests will take place across Denmark on Wednesday against the government's decision to withdraw residence permits from Syrian refugees.

Amnesty International is joining activists for protests in the Danish capital and 24 other cities and towns across the country.

After ruling that Damascus and surrounding areas were safe to return to, Denmark has revoked the residence status of at least 200 Syrians.  39 Syrians have received a final rejection from the Refugee Board and are now face deportation.

The decision comes despite returnees with real or suspected links to the opposition facing arbitrary killings, arrest, and torture at the hands of the Assad regime. No other western country has made a similar decision for Syrians fleeing regime abuses.

"Our research shows that Syrians who have been send back are routinely subjected to interrogation by Syrian security forces. The security forces are known and notorious for being behind arbitrary detention, torture and murder.” said Dan Hindsgaul, Acting Secretary General of Amnesty International Denmark.

Hindsgaul added that the plans ran “contrary to Denmark's human rights obligations.”

Natasha Al-Hariri, director of Danish Refugee Council Youth, drew attention to the psychological impact of deportation for Syrians who had lived in Denmark for years.

“Young people who have fled to Denmark, and who after a few years in the country have begun to dream and think in Danish, are now facing another violent trauma caused by the Danish government’s current deportation policy.”

Despite being known for its historically liberal policies toward refugees, Denmark has clamped down heavily on immigration in recent years. Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen recently said she hoped for “zero asylum seekers” in the country.

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

Tim Whyte, secretary general of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, a Danish NGO supporting Wednesday’s protests, said that by sending back Syrians, the Danish government was “de facto” legitimising the Assad regime.

Since Denmark has no diplomatic ties with the Assad regime, Syrian nationals cannot be forcibly deported. But they are given little choice but to go back through placement at “departure centre”, where they lack income or access to education, Michala Bendixen, head of Danish Charity Refugees Welcome, told the BBC.

President Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal suppression of protests against his rule sparked a decade-long civil war which has killed hundreds and thousands of civilians.

The area around Damascus which Copenhagen has declared safe includes once-besieged Ghouta, where Assad killed thousands of people in a chemical weapons attack in 2013. Around 35,000 Syrians live in Denmark, most of them moving during the war.