In a joint statement reported by newspaper BT, the eight individuals and organisations – researchers, analysts and experts on the area — said the content of the report is “incomplete and misleading”.
Around 500 Syrian refugees in Denmark are to have their cases re-evaluated with a view to their return to Damascus or its outlying province, Rif Dimashq. That is based on a conclusion by Danish authorities that low conflict level locally means it is safe enough for people who fled from that area to return.
At least 94 refugees have already had their asylum status revoked, according to earlier reports.
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Denmark’s judgement that Damascus and the surrounding area are safe for return is not based on information from the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR or the EU, but on reports produced under the auspices of the Danish Immigration Service.
As The Local previously detailed, the assessment in the most recent Danish report from October 2020 is “based on information from written sources as well as information obtained through Skype meetings and email correspondences” and not on a physical visit to the area, according to the text of the report itself.
A number of contributors to the report have now publicly stated their disagreement with its conclusions.
“We, the undersigned analysts, researchers and other experts on the Syrian context, strongly condemn the Danish government’s decision to remove ‘temporary protection’ for Syrian refugees from Damascus,” the joint statement reads.
“This decision used our testimonies… for a country of origin report on Damascus, but we do not recognise our views in subsequent government conclusions or policies,” it continues.
The signatories to the statement are Ammar Hamou, editor of media Syria Direct; Bente Scheller of the Heinrich Boell Foundation; COAR Global; Jusoor for Studies Centre; Jennifer Cafarella (on behalf Christopher Kozak formerly of ISW); Omran Center for Strategic Studies; Sara Kayyali of Human Rights Watch; and Suhail al-Ghazi, Syrian researcher and non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
The statement can be read in full (in English) via BT’s report.
Kayyali told broadcaster TV2 that she made it clear to the Danish immigration authorities that “Syria is not safe for returns”.
In comments to BT, Scheller called the quality of the Danish report “very poor”.
Denmark is coming increasingly under the spotlight over the decision revoke the status of refugees from Damascus. No other country in Europe has taken such a stance.
Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye told both TV2 and BT in a written comment that he retained “confidence in authorities’ assessment of the security situation” in Syria.