Denmark to change approach on deportation cases for young Syrian women

Syrian women in Denmark who saw their residence permits revoked because authorities decided they no longer qualified for asylum could be allowed to remain in the country.

Denmark to change approach on deportation cases for young Syrian women
Mariam Karim was one of a number of young Syrian women told to leave Denmark under asylum rules in 2022. Karim, 20, arrived in Denmark aged 13 and had a part time care job while studying to be a social carer – and was also pregnant – when her status was revoked. Her decision has since been overturned, allowing her to stay in the country. File photo: Emilie Lærke/Ritzau Scanpix

Several instances were last year reported in which young Syrian women were told their residence would not be extended because it was considered safe for them to return to the Damascus area.

The women were working in Denmark or enrolled on education programmes – sometimes in the social care sector, in which the country is experiencing a staff shortage – at the time they were told they had to leave.

But a new approach will be taken in cases related to extending asylum status for women who “want to be part of Denmark”, broadcaster DR reports on Wednesday.

In autumn 2022, DR reported that it was aware of nine different cases involving young women in their early twenties who were both working and enrolled in education at the time their residence permits were revoked.

Some of the reported cases have described male members of families not being deported because they risk being drafted into the military. This has in some cases resulted in families being separated.

READ ALSO: Denmark tells pregnant Syrian woman with job in care sector to leave country

When the coalition government was formed in December, it stated in its policy agreement that it would “address the problem we have recently seen where young women from Syria have lost their residence permit despite having shown they want to be part of Denmark”.

“The government will therefore give continued residence for certain foreigners who are educated in areas where there is a labour shortage,” it added.

In written comments provided to DR on Wednesday, the Minister for Immigration and Integration, Kaare Dybvad Bek, confirmed the shift in course but said the government maintains its stance that all refugees must eventually return home once conditions allow.

This policy was established by the previous, single-party Social Democratic government. Bek was also immigration minister in the previous government.

“The government maintains that a stay in Denmark as a refugee is temporary. In recent times we have seen examples of foreigners losing their residence status despite them being engaged in education programmes in areas in which Denmark currently needs labour, for example in the health sector,” he said in the statement to DR.

“I don’t think that is appropriate. The government will therefore give the right to continued residence for foreigners who have, in this way, shown that they want to be part of Denmark,” he said.

The minister was unavailable for interview by DR on the issue.

Some Syrian refugees saw their status in Denmark revoked under the previous government because authorities concluded that the situation in the Damascus area is stable enough to return to if the individual is not at risk of personal persecution.

The reports and reasoning used to conclude it was safe for Syrians to return have been criticised by human rights organisations and experts and Denmark has also faced criticism in the European Parliament over its stance.

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Danish supreme court overturns decision to revoke citizenship from woman who supported ISIS

The Danish supreme court, Højesteret, has overruled a 2020 decision to revoke the citizenship of a Danish-Iranian woman who travelled to Syria in support of the Islamic State (Isis) terror group.

Danish supreme court overturns decision to revoke citizenship from woman who supported ISIS

The Ministry for Immigration and Integration failed to take into account a requirement to apply “proportionality” when it revoked the woman’s citizenship in 2020, the Supreme Court said in the ruling on Wednesday.

The Ministry is only allowed to revoke Danish citizenship from a person if they do not become stateless as a result.

The women was born in Denmark and received Danish citizenship at birth along with Iranian citizenship, through her father.

But because she “has not resided in Iran or spent time in Iran for an extended period, and neither has contact with relatives in Iran, and does not speak Farsi”, her degree of connection to Iran was deemed to be weak, the court wrote.

She travelled to Syria in 2015 at the age of 20 to join Isis, news wire Ritzau reports. In Syria, she stayed in an Isis-controlled area and married a man who was a member of the group, with whom she had children.

She was captured in March 2019 and placed in the Kurdish-controlled prison camp al-Hol, before later being moved to another camp, al-Roj.

She did not deny joining Isis and that she could have her Danish citizenship withdrawn on this basis, but argued that decision was not in line with the “proportionality” principle under Danish law, relating to statelessness and her connection with a third country.

A similar case earlier this week saw Copenhagen City Court uphold the immigration ministry’s decision to revoke the citizenship of twin sisters of Somali heritage.

The sisters, who were born in Denmark but grew up in the UK and do not speak Danish, travelled to Syria to join Isis in 2014.

Following Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, the lawyer for the woman said her repatriation from the al-Roj camp was an urgent matter.

“It [should not be done] tomorrow. It must be now. The next flight home must be found immediately – on [flight search engine] Momondo if necessary,” the lawyer, Knud Foldschack, told Ritzau.

Human rights organisations have in the past expressed concerns over the conditions at the prison camps and Denmark has faced criticism for not evacuating children there who have connections to Denmark.

Government policy does not evacuate children from the two camps without their mothers and will not evacuate mothers if their Danish citizenship has been revoked.

The woman’s two children, who live with her in the al-Roj camp, are six and four years old.

She is now expected to be prosecuted by Denmark on her return to the country, Foldschack said.