The Violation Documentation Center of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Speech has released this Thursday a statement warning that the recent decisions of the Danish government related to deporting Syrian refugees to Damascus is within the framework of the indirect refoulement that is prohibited by international law.
On 26 September 2020, the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration had declared an inclusive reassessment of cases of refugees coming from areas controlled by the Syrian regime and the withdrawal of the temporary protection residency in preparation of their return, which was based on the resolution of the Refugee Council in December 2018 indicating the improvement of the security situation in Damascus governorate and areas controlled by the government in general.
The Violation Documentation Center commented in its statement saying that this decision: “the decision violates the general legal principle of respecting the voluntary character as the cornerstone of the refugees repatriation”. Furthermore, such decisions form huge threats against those who are wanted who are wanted by the Syrian regime. The Violation Documentation Center in Syria has documented systematic violations by Syrian Security Forces including the use of torture and extrajudicial executions, which raises serious concerns for their lives, freedom and safety. That is in addition to the economic situation and the restriction of the work of the United Nations agencies and the organizations.
Within this context, Khalid Al-Ibrahim, a member in Caesar Families Association, expressed his fears from the recent steps taken in Denmark, especially since the authorities have notified him that: “they acquired information reporting the safety of Damascus, and he continued saying: “they opened my file for a reassessment” where he fears: “calling me again to inform me with the withdrawal of my residency”.
Al-Ibrahim, who was a resident of Damascus and considered as a safe city by the Danish government, arrived at his current asylum on 21 September 2014 where he later obtained a humane asylum in February 2015. He continued saying that until the date of the present report: “I did not commit any misconduct nor have I been brought to the police for committing any contravention or a misdemeanour”.
Several Syrians have received a communication from the Supreme Refugee Council in Denmark related to reopening files of Syrian refugees for a new assessment.
Some of the papers from the Refugee Council FLYGTNINGENÆVNET, which is the higher judicial authority, indicated their use of recent reports of the Syrian Observatory confirming the absence of documenting any case in which an employee who returned to Syria has been punished outside recognized laws. In addition, they have been communicating with lawyers based in Damascus who confirmed that those who leave their workplace without resigning will not face issues of accountability.
Al-Ibrahim had always called for protests against the Syrian regime in Denmark, and he left his job in Damascus without notifying the responsible body. That is aside from him being a brother to one of Caesar Victims; Al-Ibrahim recognized the photo of his brother who died under torture in the regime’s prisons.
Moreover, Al-Ibrahim contacted the Association of Prisoners and Missing Persons and authorized them to file a lawsuit against the regime disapproving that: “I will be sent back to Damascus and I have filed a case against the regime!”.
Al-Ibrahim also added that: “Denmark considers Syria as a country that is ruled by the constitution, and that there is no justification for me staying here. As for my political activity, the council said that I am an unknown person and it does not pose a threat on me”.
Denmark may have taken into account that Al-Ibrahim’s version of the story did not match that of his brother’s arrest in the first asylum interview, in addition to what he recently stated to the Immigration Council, but he confirmed that the problem is not in matching the two narratives. It is rather that in the first interview he mentioned that his brother was detained without giving details, and when the judge confronted him with that, he replied: “I told them that the investigator did not ask me at the time for the details of my brother’s arrest”.
The refugee, Khalid Al-Ibrahim, had joined the Caesar Families Association after recognizing his brother amongst the leaked photos by the defector photographer who is known in the media as “Caesar”. Al-Ibrahim hoped that his stay in Denmark would be safe, and that it would help attain justice and initiate legal proceedings against the responsible body of torturing his brother and taking him away from his family. However, he is currently concerned about the recent limiting decisions, especially after: “the Immigration Service sending me the decision of reopening my file”.
As a result, Al-Ibrahim is concerned about calling him for withdrawing his residency, noting that it won’t expire until: “February 2020” as he stated, especially that: “the higher body in which I have the right to appeal has already classified me among those who are not in danger, and the appeal may not succeed”. Which means that as soon as he arrives: “the regime will arrest me the moment the plane lands in Damascus”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, Mattias Tesfaye, stated that: “Last year, almost 100,000 refugees returned to Syria from the surrounding areas. Of course, their compatriots, who have been granted protection in Europe, must also return home when conditions in Syria allow them to do so”.
The recent decisions in Denmark coincided with the periodic briefing of the United Nations envoy, Geir Pedersen, confirming the continuiation of the violations in Syria by the Syrian regime who still practices arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, and torture in areas that were recovered by the opposition -including the south of Damascus which is Al-Ibrahim’s origin-, and the continuiation of the dangors of military operations and the displacement of civilians in the country.