Danish petition asks lawmakers to end Syrian repatriation policy

The Danish parliament, which must now address a citizens' petition calling for the government to stop withdrawing protection from Syrian refugees from Damascus.
The Danish parliament, which must now address a citizens' petition calling for the government to stop withdrawing protection from Syrian refugees from Damascus. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
A petition demanding that Denmark stop its controversial policy of revoking residency of some Syrian refugees on Tuesday got the required number of signatures to be submitted to parliament.

In the summer of 2020, Denmark decided to re-examine the cases of about 500 Syrians from the capital 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 move, supported by much of Denmark’s political class, sparked protests and a petition was launched in April asking parliament to change the law allowing the measure.

On Tuesday, the petition, which is available online, had been signed by more than 53,000 people. It needed 50,000 signatures for parliament to consider it.  

“We want the Folketing (parliament) to change the law allowing the Danish authorities to send back Syrian refugees under the circumstances today,” it reads.

The government has withdrawn protection from dozens of Syrian refugees, citing an improved security situation in the Damascus area. Humanitarian organisations, experts and the refugees themselves have said that they still risk persecution if they return.

Because Denmark does not cooperate with the Assad regime and can therefore not forcibly send the refugees to Syria, refugees who lose asylum status face detainment in one of Denmark’s infamous departure or expulsion centres.

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“Denmark should not force refugees into a choice between living an undignified and traumatising life at an expulsion centre or travelling back to a country where the regime they fled from is still in power and still violates the fundamental human rights of the Syrian people,” the petition also states.

Since Denmark announced the measure in summer of 2020, at least 250 Syrians in Denmark have had their temporary residency permits revoked, according to government statistics published in May.

At the end of an appeals process, those who had only been granted temporary residency could be placed in a detention centre pending their deportation.

Under Danish immigration law, temporary residence permits are issued without an end date in cases of a “particularly serious situation in the country of origin characterised by arbitrary violence and attacks against civilians.”

But they can be revoked once conditions are deemed to have improved.

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


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