Drama of Syrian refugees in Denmark before their change of status

In a quiet Danish city, the Euronews team of journalists meet with a family doubly broken by grief. After their father was executed and maimed by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, the Alatas fled Syria in 2015. All five members of the family received political refugee status in Denmark. Since then, the mother has been diagnosed with ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’.

“We lived between fear and tears. First, my husband was murdered. Later, my children left home. There were bombs, the noise of airplanes, the assaults on houses …”, says Sabrieh Hasan Al Fayad, a refugee Syria.

In March of this year, the Alata family received a letter. His political refugee status it had been revalued. Older siblings, one already married, another about to start high school, can stay.

But the mother and two sisters, aged 10 and 12, must return to the Damascus region, now considered safe by the Danish authorities. The family is broken again.

“Why would anyone want to go back to Syria? I am afraid that they will arrest me and ask me where I have been all this time, where my children have been. They could ask me why my two oldest children are not in the Army. The Syrian regime he has no compassion. Syria is not a safe country. Our houses have been destroyed and there is no educational system, “adds Sabrieh Hasan Al Fayad.

The family has appealed the decision and participated in various protest activities. Another 200 Syrian refugees, out of a total of 35,000 Syrians residing in Denmark, face the same situation. Since the first letters of revocation of the statute arrived, the demonstrations have taken place in front of the Danish Parliament.

At 57 years old, and a refugee in Denmark since 2104, Samer began a hunger strike and had to be hospitalized.

“I know there are many people who are so afraid of being deported by the Danish government that they have fled to other European countries. Among the people I know who have returned to Syria, I have heard one or two cases of people being detained in the airport, questioned and of which nothing has been heard again “, affirms Samer Barakat.

The Danish government says the decision is based on the findings of a report by the Danish Refugee Committee, an independent body that, this past year, has reviewed the cases of around 1,200 refugees from the Damascus region.

The Danish Minister of Immigration, Mattias Tesfaye, did not want to host the Euronews team. But he did send him a statement in which he stated that “Denmark has been a transparent and honest country from day one. We made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit was temporary and that it could be revoked if we could not find reasons to justify it. need for protection. The Danish government’s approach is to offer protection to those who need it. But if conditions in their home country improve, ex-refugees must return and re-establish their lives there, “said Mattias Tesfaye.

We contacted in the Danish People’s Party, third largest parliamentary group. The party does not believe in multiculturalism and considers that Denmark is not a country prepared to receive immigration. Although technically in opposition, he supports the government strategy.

“It is not a political decision. It is a judicial decision. The affected people can explain why they can still stay in Denmark, for one or two more years. I repeat: it is not a political decision, it is above all legal,” explains Morten Messerschmidt, Member of Parliament for the Danish People’s Party.

“Activists denounce that there are only two countries in the European Union that currently consider the Damascus region safe for refugees to return. One of those countries is Denmark. The other is Hungary. Are these two countries too harsh about it, or Are the other 25 European countries too naive? “Asks Julián López Gómez, Euronews journalist and author of the report.

“With all due respect, it doesn’t make sense to put it that way. It all depends on individual cases. We can look at two different cases of Syrian refugees. It is possible that one can go home and be there safe, and another, perhaps not,” adds Morten Messerschmidt.

The Danish authorities assure that the revaluation was made from “a wide compilation of reports from different sources”. In the bosom of Amnesty International Denmark, things look very different. “Perhaps the bombings have ended in the Damascus region,” a coordinator tells us. But, he argues, “returning refugees may be risking their lives.”

“We know that people who return to Syria are being held by Syrian forces in ‘special’ areas. And, there they are interrogated by exactly the same Syrian forces responsible for massive human rights violations,” says Lisa Blinkenberg, Senior Advisor at Amnesty. International Denmark.

“Like which ones, for example?” Julián López Gómez asks.

“For example, mistreatment. Torture in prisons. Disappearances of detainees. The security forces take these people to certain places and we never hear from them again. There are many arrests. We also know cases of people who have been executed. The situation in Syria is still very insecure, “says Lisa Blinkenberg.

What happens next? At the University of Copenhagen, we met with a professor of Asylum Law. The measure has been criticized in the European Union, but Denmark is not bound by common European Asylum laws, he tells us. Without diplomatic relations with Syria, Denmark cannot legally deport refugees there whom it has stripped of their status. Their return is only possible if they do so voluntarily, confirms Professor Gammeltoft-Hansen.

“They cannot be subjected to a forced return. But the revocation of their refugee status affects their lives a lot, in a very severe way. Their integration process into Danish society is suspended. They cannot participate in Danish society. However, we do not have concrete examples of refugees who have returned to Syria voluntarily after losing their status, “he says. Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, Professor of Political Science and Refugee Law at the University of Copenhagen.html).

Since they do not plan to return voluntarily, the Alatas could end up in legal limbo, outside their home and in an immigrant center in Denmark. The case is now in the hands of his lawyers. The family assures that they will continue fighting.

“My sisters are like my daughters. My little sister sometimes even calls me Dad. I will never let them go back to Syria. The decision to send them back to Syria is unbearable, whatever the circumstances. Even if they end up in a ‘deportation camp’ here in Denmark, that would be much easier to accept than my family returning to Syria, “concludes Abdo Ahmad Alata, a Syrian refugee.