Danish journo conveyed Foley’s final message

Daniel Rye Ottosen and James Foley were held together in captivity for over a year. The Danish journalist committed his American companion's final message to memory so that he could pass it on to family members.

Danish journo conveyed Foley's final message
James Foley (left) and Daniel Rye Ottosen. Photos: Nicole Tung/GlobalPost/Scanpix and Ulrik Jantzen/Scanpix
American journalist James Foley was able to have one last conversation with his family thanks to Danish photojournalist Daniel Rye Ottosen. 
Foley and Ottosen were held together in captivity for 13 months in Syria, during which time Foley was not allowed to communicate with the outside world. 
“Jim was never allowed to send a letter like the other hostages because he was an American. Jim related the letter to the Danish hostage and he memorised it. Jim mentioned every family member and how much he loved them,” the Foley family’s priest, Father Marc Montminy, told the Daily Mail. 
According to the Daily Mail, Ottosen immediately called Foley’s mother and recited the lengthy message after he was released in June
In the letter, which can be read in full on the Free James Foley Facebook page, the journalist sends personal messages to his family members and tells them about his time as a hostage. 
“I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year,” Foley wrote. 
He tells his sister Katie that he hopes to make it to her wedding and advises his grandmother to “take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing”. 
The Daily Mail reports that Ottosen met with James Foley’s mother, Diane, in Copenhagen just one week before the American journalist was brutally beheaded by an Islamic State militant. 
“She went to Copenhagen to meet with the Danish journalist who memorised the letter. He provided new details of his time with Jim. All of the released hostages spoke of Jim’s courage. He was subjected to the most abuse and torture because he was American but they never broke his spirit,” Phil Balboni, the CEO of GlobalPost, told Daily Mail. 
Foley was working for GlobalPost when he was abducted in Syria in November 2012. 
Ottosen was captured by the Islamic State, the militant jihadist organisation previously known as Isis, while documenting the plight of refugees forced to flee violence in Syria. A ransom of an unknown amount was paid for Ottosen’s release.
Just one day after the emergence of a video showing Foley being murdered by an Isis jihadist, the Guardian reported that a Danish citizen was among four new Western hostages seized by the militants
The Foreign Ministry told The Local on Friday that it could not confirm the report. 

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‘I can’t go back’: Syrian refugees in Denmark face limbo after status revoked

Bilal Alkale's family is among the hundred or so Syrian refugees in Denmark whose lives are on hold amid an insufferable legal limbo -- their temporary residency permits have been revoked but they can't be deported. Now, they have no rights.

Syrian refugee Bilal Alkale and his daughter Rawan at their home in Lundby, Denmark on November 17th 2021. 
Syrian refugee Bilal Alkale and his daughter Rawan at their home in Lundby, Denmark on November 17th 2021. Photo: Thibault Savary / AFP

Alkale, who until recently ran his own small transportation company in Denmark, found out in March he wasn’t allowed to stay in the Scandinavian country where he has lived as a refugee since 2014, as Copenhagen now considers it safe for Syrians to return to Damascus.

His wife and three of his four children were also affected by the decision taken by Danish authorities.

Once the ruling was confirmed on appeal in late September — like 40 percent of some 200 other cases examined so far — Alkale and his family were ordered to leave.

READ ALSO: Danish refugee board overturns decisions to send home Syrians

They were told that if they didn’t go voluntarily, they would be placed in a detention centre.

The family has refused to leave.

Normally they would have been deported by now, but since Copenhagen has no diplomatic relations with Damascus, they can’t be. And so they wait.

Days and weeks go by without any news from the authorities.

In the meantime, the family has been stripped of their rights in Denmark.

Alkale can’t sleep, his eyes riveted on his phone as he keeps checking his messages.

“What will become of me now?” the 51-year-old asks.

“Everything is off. The kids aren’t going to school, and I don’t have work,” he says, the despair visible on his weary face as he sits in the living room of the home he refurbished himself in the small village of Lundby, an hour-and-a-half’s drive south of Copenhagen.

“All this so people will get annoyed enough to leave Denmark.”

For him, returning to Syria means certain death.  

“I can’t go back, I’m wanted,” he tells AFP.

And yet, he has no way to earn a living here.

“As a foreigner staying illegally in Denmark, your rights are very limited,” notes his lawyer Niels-Erik Hansen, who has applied for new residency permits for the family.

In mid-2020, Denmark became the first European Union country to re-examine the cases of about 500 Syrians from Damascus, which is under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, saying “the current situation in Damascus is no longer such as to justify a residence permit or the extension of a residence permit”. 

The decision was later widened to include the neighbouring region of Rif Dimashq.

Despite a wave of Danish and international criticism, the Social Democratic government — which has pursued one of Europe’s toughest immigration policies — has refused to budge.


The Alkale family is considering leaving for another European country, even though they risk being sent back to Denmark. 

Alkale’s oldest child was already over the age of 18 when they arrived in Denmark and therefore has her own residency permit, currently under review.

Of the three other children, only the youngest, 10-year-old Rawan, still has the carefree ways of a child.

Majed, 14, says he’s “bummed”, while Said, 17, who was studying to prepare for professional chef school, says he now has no idea what his future holds.

Only a handful of Syrians have so far been placed in detention centres, regularly criticised for poor sanitary conditions.

Asmaa al-Natour and her husband Omar are among the few.

They live in the Sjælsmark camp, a former army barracks surrounded by barbed wire and run by the prisons system since late October.

“This centre should disappear, it’s not good for humans, or even for animals. There are even rats,” says al-Natour.


 The couple, who have two sons aged 21 and 25, arrived in Denmark in 2014.

“My husband and I opened a shop selling Arabic products, it was going well. Then I decided to resume my studies, but now everything has just stopped,” says al-Natour, who “just wants to get (her) life back.” 

“Going back to Syria means going to prison, or even death, since we’re opposed to Bashar al-Assad. He’s a criminal.”

Niels-Erik Hansen, who also represents this couple, says his clients are being “held hostage by the Danish authorities.”

The government is trying “to spread the message that ‘in Denmark, we almost deport to Syria’,” he says.

Amnesty International recently criticised Syrian security forces’ use of violence against dozens of refugees who returned home.

Danish authorities meanwhile insist it’s safe for Syrians to go back.

“If you aren’t personally persecuted … there haven’t been acts of war in Damascus for several years now. And that is why it is possible for some to go back,” the government’s spokesman for migration, Rasmus Stoklund, tells AFP.

Some 35,500 Syrians currently live in Denmark, more than half of whom arrived in 2015, according to official statistics.