For the first time since 2013, the Danish immigration agency does not consider the situation across all of Syria to automatically qualify refugees from the Middle Eastern country for temporary asylum status.
Specifically, this could affect the cases of persons from the Damascus province, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration stated in a press statement Thursday evening.
The decision was made on the basis of a report on conditions in Syria published by the Immigration Service on February 21st, the statement said.
The agency considered there to be a “general improvement of conditions in government-controlled areas in Syria, including the Damascus province in particular,” the ministry wrote.
Asylum seekers who come to Denmark from Damascus province will therefore no longer automatically be given temporary asylum based on conditions of conflict in the Syrian province.
The Refugee Appeals Board (Flygtningenævnet) has also changed its assessment of the situation in Syria. The board made its decision after several months’ work, including a visit to the country, deputy director Anders Dorph told Ritzau.
“We went to Damascus in March (2018) and made a report. We were there again in November. It is our view that there has been a long period in which there has not been a large number of combat situations,” Dorph said.
Both Danish authorities now consider combat and civilian losses in Syria to be “geographically limited”.
As such, returning to the Damascus province will no longer be considered to put the safety of asylum seekers under threat, without the presence of other factors.
“Being in the area is not on its own cause for asylum,” Dorph said.
The change in the view taken by the two agencies could affect some Syrians already in Denmark, as well as those who seek asylum in future.
Temporary asylum status (midlertidig beskyttelsesstatus) is given one year at a time. In cases in which people have been granted asylum on the basis that it would be dangerous to return to Damascus province, that status could be revoked, if that was the sole reason for granting asylum.
The Refugee Appeals Board is the body with which Immigration Service decisions can be appealed.
Dorph told Ritzau that, since 2015, 4,700 people had been granted temporary asylum status based solely on the reason that it would be dangerous to return home.
It is not clear from initial reporting how many of these may now face having to return to Damascus province, or what other factors, including, for example, political persecution, can affect outcomes.
The new position taken by authorities could later be extended to other parts of Syria, according to the appeals board director.
“We believe we have information to cover Damascus province,” he said to Ritzau.
“I cannot rule out other areas, namely government-controlled areas, where we may be able to make the same assessment. But initially, we will look at cases from Damascus province,” he said.