UK Home Office tells asylum seeker 'Syria is safe' for return

UK Home Office tells asylum seeker 'Syria is safe' for return
3 min read
10 January, 2022
Human rights campaigners, including employees from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed a UK Home Office decision that an asylum seeker who fled forced conscription in Syria is not at risk of persecution if he returns.
Amnesty International has documented a series of 'horrific violations' committed by Syrian intelligence officers by 66 returnees, including 13 children [Getty]

A UK Home Office judgment that an asylum seeker who evaded forced conscription in Syria can return safely to his home country was slammed by human rights campaigners Sunday. 

The 25-year-old fled forced conscription in Bashar Al-Assad's regime in 2017 and sought refuge in the UK in May 2020. 

He was told by the UK government in December last year that "it is not will face a risk of persecution or real risk of serious harm [on return to Syria]…due to your imputed political opinion as a draft evader", according to a refusal letter seen by The Guardian. 

The young man, whose case is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, told the newspaper his solicitor was appealing the decision and that he was "so tired of trying to find somewhere that I can be safe". 

Human rights campaigners and advocates have condemned the UK Home Office decision, stating that Syria is still not safe for return as relentless fighting and persecution continues. 

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"It's a shift from the UK and an extremely dangerous one and should be reversed immediately," wrote Amnesty International UK Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict on Twitter Sunday. 

"Syrian security forces have subjected Syrians who returned home after seeking refuge abroad to detention, disappearance and torture, including sexual violence," he said.

Benedict cited a report from Amnesty published last year which documented "a catalogue of horrific violations committed by Syrian intelligence officers against 66 returnees, including 13 children". 

Human Rights Watch’s UK advocacy and communications coordinator Dr Emilie McDonnell called the Home Office judgment "an extremely dangerous decision" on social media. 

A report by the US watchdog published in October 2021 stated that those returning to Syria face "grave human rights abuses and persecution at the hands of [the Syrian regime] and affiliated militias, including torture, extra-judicial killings, and kidnappings".

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Last year, Denmark became the first European country to revoke residence permits for Syrian refugees, claiming that Damascus and surrounding areas are no longer dangerous enough to justify a right to stay. 

As a result, the status of about 500 people in the Nordic country has been reportedly re-evaluated. If their appeal fails, they will have to return to Damascus voluntarily or be placed in return centres indefinitely. 

Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have also challenged Denmark’s decision that parts of Syria are safe, warning that dozens of people could face grave human rights abuses.

Syria is still in the grips of fierce fighting between the Assad regime and rebel groups after more than a decade of war. Those who have stayed in the country face an economy and society devastated by conflict.