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Fear and Anxiety Among Denmark’s Syrian Refugees
Refugees from Syria arrive at Stockholm Central Station by train through Denmark and Malmo in September 2015. (Frankie Fouganthin/Wikimedia Commons)

Fear and Anxiety Among Denmark’s Syrian Refugees

Al-Ittihad, UAE, June 12

Getting through an entire night of sleep has always been a difficult task for Syrian refugee Sabriya, but now sleep has become almost impossible. The possibility that the Danish government will send her back to Syria is extremely unsettling. If her attempt to appeal the revocation of her residency permit fails, Sabriya will have to choose between “voluntarily” returning to the country from which she fled or moving into a deportation center until further notice. It doesn’t matter that the Syrian regime killed Sabriya’s husband and bombed her family’s home. It also doesn’t matter that she has no one to return to in Syria and that all of her family members have been separated from each other. The Danish authorities have determined that it is currently “safe” for Syrian asylum seekers to be repatriated. Indeed, Danish authorities have revoked more and more residency permits granted to refugees in recent years. Policy experts said the government’s decision reflects a long-standing effort to make Denmark less attractive to asylum seekers. Controversial measures such as stripping newcomers of their jewelry and separating young couples proliferated after the influx of migrants to Europe in 2015 and 2016. There are fears that foreigners could become a burden on the Danish social welfare system and harm social cohesion. These concerns existed decades ago, but are now dividing the country along party lines. Mattias Tesfaye, the Danish minister of immigration and integration, said in a statement that there has been an improvement in the overall security situation in and around Damascus. Tesfaye, the son of an Ethiopian refugee, insists that the refugees should return home, to Syria, to build their lives there as soon as possible. Experts on Syria, including a large majority of those consulted by the Danish authorities, rejected the notion that Damascus and its surrounding areas are considered safe in any way. More than a decade into the Syrian civil war, over a million Syrian lives have been lost. Lisa Blankenberg, senior adviser at Amnesty International, noted that if Syrians returned to government-controlled areas they would be subject to interrogations, torture and potentially death. So far, 400 cases of Syrians, including minors, have been rejected by the Danish immigration authorities. Rejecting cases does not result in immediate expulsion for the simple legal reason that Syrians cannot be forcibly returned as long as diplomatic relations between Copenhagen and Damascus are severed. This baffles Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, who finds no point in taking people out of the life they tried to build in Denmark and putting them on hold after escaping a horrific conflict at home. Since 2019, 250 Syrians residing in Denmark have voluntarily been repatriated and accepted the government’s generous financial offer of $28,400 in return. But some people have successfully appealed the revocation of their residency permit and are fighting the Danish authorities on the new draconian policies. – Dominic Sujil (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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