Denmark tells some Syrians to depart, separating families

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — An electronic mail introduced Faeza Satouf’s world to a standstill.

The 25-year-old Syrian refugee had fled the civil warfare along with her household in an all-too-familiar journey throughout the ocean to Europe, the place they lastly arrived in Denmark and had been granted asylum in 2015. Yet six years later, she was being informed she had to return — alone, and shortly.

Ten years after the beginning of the rebellion in opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Denmark has change into the primary European nation to begin revoking the residency permits of some Syrian refugees, arguing that the Syrian capital, Damascus, and neighboring areas are secure. Yet few specialists agree with Denmark’s evaluation.

“There are no laws in Syria that can protect me like here in Denmark,” Satouf stated with palpable nervousness. “My father is sought after in Syria, so of course I will be arrested upon my return.”

In the previous six years, Satouf has discovered Danish, graduated from highschool with flying colours and is now learning to be a nurse whereas working in a grocery store. She can’t perceive why a rustic that inspired integration and which wants nurses amid a pandemic would expel her and others, primarily girls.

For now, the choice impacts solely individuals from sure areas of Syria who acquired their preliminary asylum as a result of they had been fleeing civil warfare. It doesn’t embody those that can show a particular risk to their lives, resembling males who might face conscription into Assad’s military.

“This is very much down the line of gender,” stated Satouf’s lawyer, Niels-Erik Hansen. “When I have a male client, I will send him right away to the Immigration Service and he will get asylum within three weeks. A female client will get rejected … and we will have to take this case to the refugee board. So when I look into the pile of cases that I’m representing at the board, it’s like 90% women and 10% male.”

Because Denmark has no diplomatic relations with Syria, those that refuse to depart the nation can’t be despatched to Syria. Instead, they’re despatched to deportation facilities, separated from household, unable to work and withdrawn from education schemes.

Single girls are possible to be despatched to the Kaershovedgaard deportation middle, a distant advanced of buildings about 300 kilometers (185 miles) west of Copenhagen. Access is strictly restricted, however Red Cross pictures present rudimentary infrastructure the place cooking is banned and actions are restricted. Even Danish language classes usually are not allowed.

“It is like a prison, but they are allowed to go out in the daytime,” stated Gerda Abildgaard, who has visited the middle for a number of years for the Red Cross.

The coverage is the product of a left-wing Social Democratic-led authorities, whose immigration stance has come to resemble that of far-right events after years of enormous migrations peaked in 2015 with 1 million new arrivals in Europe. The massive numbers of individuals coming from Africa and the Middle East energized populist actions throughout the continent, pushing events that had a extra welcoming place to embrace stricter insurance policies.

It’s a dilemma that Democrats are going through within the U.S., as a surge of younger migrants on the Southern border exams President Joe Biden’s marketing campaign promise to settle for extra refugees than within the Trump period.

Though the numbers of asylum-seekers in Denmark have since plummeted, notably in the course of the pandemic, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reiterated in January a imaginative and prescient of getting “zero asylum-seekers.”

The Danish authorities argues that it made clear to the Syrians from the start that they had been being supplied solely short-term safety.

“It’s a cornerstone of our legislation … that you get temporary protection, and as soon as you don’t need protection anymore, you will have to leave Denmark,” stated Rasmus Storklund, a Social Democratic lawmaker and member of Parliament’s Immigration and Integration Committee.

Standing in entrance of the deportation middle’s heavy gates, Abildgaard pleads: “But is Syria safe again? It’s only Denmark who says that. All the other European countries don’t say that. Only Denmark.”

This week, specialists who contributed to stories on which the Danish authorities based mostly their evaluation condemned that conclusion, warning in a joint assertion printed by Human Rights Watch that “conditions do not presently exist anywhere in Syria for safe returns.”

In government-controlled areas, together with within the suburbs of Damascus and plenty of elements of central Syria beforehand held by opposition rebels, the safety state of affairs has stabilized, however complete neighborhoods are destroyed, and many individuals don’t have any homes to return to. Basic providers resembling water and electrical energy are poor to nonexistent.

Moreover, compelled conscription, indiscriminate detentions and compelled disappearances proceed.

In a borderless European Union, Denmark tightening migration laws signifies that individuals going through deportation could flee to neighboring Sweden or to Germany, which welcomed refugees in previous years however the place there may be little political will now to take extra.

“This is also a lack of solidarity with the rest of Europe,” stated Hansen, Satouf’s lawyer. “As the first country that starts to withdraw residence permits for these refugees, we are, in fact, pushing people to go to other European countries.”

Denmark’s strategy marks a dramatic transformation of a nation that was the primary to signal the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, and which was lengthy seen as a paragon of openness and tolerance.

“We used to be known as one of the most humanitarian countries in Europe, with a lot of freedom, a lot of respect for human rights,” says Michala Bendixen, the top of Refugees Welcome Denmark, a non-governmental group. Now, she notes, Denmark’s insurance policies look rather more like these of nations with hard-line immigration insurance policies, like Hungary.

The final aim, Bendixen believes, is “making it less attractive for refugees and foreigners to arrive in Denmark.”

On Wednesday, a whole bunch of individuals gathered in entrance of parliament to protest the deportation orders, surrounded by Danish pals, classmates and work colleagues.

Addressing the gang, a nervous Satouf informed her story.

Others additionally spoke: A brother and sister going through separation, siblings whose residence permits had been expiring the following day, a highschool pupil surrounded by her Danish classmates, a single girl who couldn’t comprehend how Denmark, with its declare to uphold and defend girls’s rights, might be doing this.

“They say I should marry someone who has political asylum to stay here,” stated Nevien Alrahal who traveled to Denmark along with her aged father and who faces her remaining enchantment on Friday. “That’s a choice I don’t want to make.”


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

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