Danish party suggests cooperation with Assad regime over return of Syrian refugees

Danish party suggests cooperation with Assad regime over return of Syrian refugees
Liberal party spokesperson for immigration and integration Mads Fuglede. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
The Danish Liberal party, the largest party in opposition, has suggested the country could find a way to cooperate with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to return refugees whose claims for asylum have been rejected or withdrawn.

Although consecutive governments have rejected all diplomatic cooperation with Assad’s regime, the Liberal party has suggested a change in policy to facilitate the return of refugees, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Sunday.

The party’s immigration spokesman Mads Fuglede told the newspaper that the Liberals want “an agreement in which we get Syria to take back its citizens”.

“I envisage an agreement around the framework for sending people back (to Syria) – and some guarantees that they can return without being persecuted,” Fuglede said.

“If Denmark doesn’t think that can be done, we should push for dialogue with the Assad regime at EU level,” the Liberal lawmaker also said.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Fuglede appeared to row back to some extent on the comments given to Jyllands-Posten, saying he was against “recognising” the Damascus regime.

“I want to stress that the Liberal party does not think Denmark should recognise the Assad regime,” he wrote, calling the regime a “criminal dictatorship which we in no way wish to rubber-stamp”.

“But we should discuss what to do with all the Syrian refugees in Europe as Syria has become safer around Damascus, and how they can safely return to their country,” he continued.

“But it is clear that if this can only be done by recognising Assad, then it can’t be done. Then we’ll have to find other options,” he also wrote.

Last year, Denmark began withdrawing residency permits from some Syrian refugees from the Damascus region, with immigration authorities now deeming that part of the Middle Eastern country safe for return. Syrian refugees in Denmark who could be returned to the area have spoken about the peril they may face if they are deported back to Syria.

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Rejected asylum seekers and others with no legal right to reside in Denmark are normally accommodated at so-called ‘departure centres’ (udrejsecentre) if they do not agree to leave voluntarily and if Denmark has no repatriation arrangement in place with their home country. This is the case for refugees from Syria, because Denmark does not cooperate with the Assad regime.

Denmark is also signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents deportation of rejected asylum seekers if they risk torture or persecution in their home countries.

The Social Democratic government has already rejected the idea of discussing a repatriation arrangement with Assad.

“It would send the completely wrong signal that we consider Assad to be the victor in Syria,” the party’s immigration spokesman Rasmus Stoklund told Jyllands-Posten. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod has also confirmed the government does not support the proposal, the newspaper writes.

Other parties have also pushed back against the Liberals’ apparent willingness to cooperate with Assad, whose regime is responsible for years of atrocities.

“It is completely wrong to cooperate with one of history’s worst dictators… just to look tough (on immigration). These are people we’re talking about,” Social Liberal spokesperson for immigration Andreas Steenberg tweeted.


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