Denmark tells some Syrians to leave their families

Copenhagen, Denmark (AP) — Email has stagnated the world of Faeza Satouf.

A 25-year-old Syrian refugee fled the civil war with his family and crossed the sea to Europe. There they finally arrived in Denmark and were granted asylum in 2015. Still six years later, she was told she had to return — alone and soon.

Ten years after the rebellion against the Bashar al-Assad regime began, Denmark was the first to begin revoking residence permits for some Syrian refugees, claiming that the Syrian capital, Damascus, and neighboring areas were safe. It has become a European country. However, few experts agree with the Danish assessment.

“There is no law in Syria that can protect me like here in Denmark,” Satouf said with obvious anxiety. “My dad is being sought after in Syria, so of course I will be arrested on my return.”

Over the last 6 years, Satouf has learned Danish, graduated from high school in flying colors and is currently studying to become a nurse while working in a supermarket. She does not understand why countries that encourage integration and need nurses in a pandemic expel her and others, mostly women.

For now, this decision only affects people in certain parts of Syria who have made their first asylum due to their escape from the civil war. It does not include anyone who can prove a particular threat to their lives, such as men who may face drafting into Assad’s army.

“This is well below the gender line,” said Satouf lawyer Niels-Erik Hansen. “When I have a male client, I immediately send him to the Immigration Bureau, and he goes into exile within three weeks. The female client is rejected … and we I need to bring this case to the Refugee Commission, so if I look at the pile of cases I represent on the board, 90% are women and 10% are men. “

Denmark has no diplomatic relations with Syria, so it is not possible to send anyone who refuses to leave the country to Syria. Instead, they are sent away from their families to a deportation center, unable to work, and withdraw from the education program.

Single women may be sent to the Kaershovedgaard Deportation Center, a remote complex in a building about 300 km (185 miles) west of Copenhagen. Access is severely restricted, but the Red Cross photo shows the basic infrastructure where cooking is banned and activities are restricted. Even Danish lessons are not allowed.

“It’s like a prison, but they are allowed to go out during the day,” said Gerda Abuildgard, who visited the center for several years for the Red Cross.

The policy is the result of a left-wing Social Democratic-led government, whose immigration stance is after a million new arrivals in Europe in 2015 and years of large-scale immigration peaking. , It became similar to that of the far right party. Many from Africa and the Middle East have encouraged more welcoming political parties to revitalize the continent-wide populist movement and embrace stricter policies.

It’s a dilemma facing Democrats in the United States, as the surge of young immigrants on the southern border is testing President Joe Biden’s promise to accept more refugees than in the Trump era.

The number of Danish asylum seekers then plummeted, especially during the pandemic, but Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reiterated his vision of “zero asylum seekers” in January.

The Danish government claims that the Syrians have revealed from the beginning that they are only provided with temporary protection.

Rasmus Stoklund, a member of the Social Democratic Party and a member of the Immigration Integration Committee of Parliament, said: ..

Standing in front of the heavy gates of the deportation center, Abildgaard pleads: “But is Syria safe again? Only Denmark says it. All other European countries do not say it. . Only in Denmark. “

Experts who contributed to the evaluation-based report by Danish authorities this week warned in a joint statement released by Human Rights Watch that “conditions for a safe return currently do not exist anywhere in Syria.” And blamed the conclusion.

In the suburbs of Damascus and in government-controlled areas, including many areas in central Syria that were previously dominated by opposition rebels, security conditions were stable, but the entire neighborhood was destroyed and many people. Does not have a home to go home. Basic services such as water and electricity do not exist due to poorness.

In addition, enforced conscription, indiscriminate detention, and enforced disappearances continue.

In the borderless European Union, Denmark’s tightening of immigration regulations has welcomed refugees for the past few years to those facing deportation, but now it has little political will to rob more of its neighbors. It means fleeing to Sweden or Germany.

“This is also a lack of solidarity with other European countries,” said Hansen, Satouf’s lawyer. “As the first country to begin withdrawing residence permits for these refugees, we are in fact encouraging people to go to other European countries.”

The Danish approach represents a dramatic transformation of the country that first signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which has long been regarded as a paragon of openness and tolerance.

“We were once known as one of the most humane countries in Europe and had a lot of freedom and respect for human rights,” said Mihara Bendixen, head of the non-governmental group Refugee Welcome Denmark. I will. Currently, she states that Danish policy is very similar to that of a country with a strong immigration policy, such as Hungary.

Bendixen believes that the ultimate goal is “to make refugees and foreigners unattractive to arrive in Denmark.”

Hundreds of people gathered in front of Congress on Wednesday to protest the deportation order, surrounded by Danish friends, classmates and colleagues at work.

To the crowd, nervous Satouf told her story.

Others have also spoken: brothers and sisters facing separation, brothers whose residence permit expires the next day, high school students surrounded by Danish classmates, single women who did not understand Danish methods, women’s rights You can do this with the right to claim to support and defend.

“They say I should marry someone who has political asylum to stay here,” travels to Denmark with her older father and faces her last appeal on Friday. Nevien Alajar said. “That’s the choice I don’t want.”


Jan M from Copenhagen, an Associated Press writer. Olsen, Zeina Karam in Beirut, and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland contributed to this report.