These Syrian Refugees Cannot Keep in Denmark, however They Cannot Go Dwelling

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IKAST, Denmark — Haitham Kurdi, a 61-year-old asylum seeker from Syria, has been languishing for almost six months in a deportation middle in Denmark, the place family members say he has grown depressed and barely eats. He suffers from tics and has began speaking to himself.

Mr. Kurdi fled Syria’s civil conflict in 2015, following his grownup son, Mohammad, who arrived a 12 months earlier. Initially he was granted short-term asylum, however the authorities revoked his residency allow final 12 months after deciding it was secure for him and others from the Damascus area to return residence.

“Being right here is like dying slowly,” Mr. Kurdi mentioned in a current interview from his tiny, dilapidated room on the Kaershovedgaard middle within the city of Ikast in northern Denmark, the place some asylum seekers who’ve been rejected are held. However the prospect of returning to Syria is so terrifying, he mentioned, that he would by no means return.

As lots of of hundreds of Syrians discovered refuge in Europe round 2015, Denmark took in additional than 30,000 of them. However since then, no European nation has gone so far as Denmark to make Syrian refugees really feel unwelcome.

With a brand new refugee disaster swelling in Europe, the nice and cozy welcome for Ukrainians fleeing a Russian assault has evoked each sympathy and bitterness within the Center East and Africa, the place many really feel that European nations have taken a far more compassionate stance towards the newcomers than they’d in recent times towards Arab, Muslim and African asylum seekers making an attempt to achieve the protection of Europe’s shores.

In 2019, the federal government started sending out letters to greater than 1,200 individuals from the Damascus area, saying that after granting them residency permits, it was reassessing their short-term asylum standing. Since then, greater than 100 Syrians like Mr. Kurdi have had their residencies revoked and have exhausted the appeals course of, basically making it unlawful for them to remain within the nation.

A few of them have been despatched to a number of deportation facilities across the nation, the place their actions are tightly managed. However Denmark can’t deport them as a result of it doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Syria.

So dozens of Syrians have ended up caught in limbo, going through indefinite detention with the specter of deportation hanging over their heads.

In revoking the residency permits of some Syrians, Denmark has turn out to be the primary European nation to rule that they not benefit asylum regardless of the risks again residence.

Safety and human rights consultants say Denmark’s evaluation of the safety state of affairs within the Damascus area grossly misrepresents the dangers of returning whereas the dictator Bashar al-Assad stays in energy. Returnees have confronted extortion, torture, sexual violence and compelled disappearance, in accordance with human rights teams.

The United Nations’ refugee company has referred to as on governments all over the world to not return Syrians “to any a part of Syria.” Denmark’s measures have alarmed many European lawmakers, and a few European international locations, like Britain, have explicitly mentioned that Syria stays unsafe for returnees.

“My shoppers are taken hostage by the Danish authorities with a purpose to ship a message to the world that Denmark is the worst place to go as an asylum seeker from Syria,” mentioned Niels-Erik Hansen, a lawyer primarily based in Copenhagen who’s representing Mr. Kurdi and different Syrians.

Rasmus Stoklund, a authorities spokesman, mentioned no Syrian must be despatched again in the event that they face hazard.

“You’re welcome right here so long as you want safety,” he mentioned. “As quickly as you don’t want safety anymore, then you definately’ll need to go residence.”

The entire Syrians who’ve had their residency permits revoked have the best to enchantment the choice, and several other occasions every week, a three-judge panel in Copenhagen guidelines on these appeals. Those that exhaust all authorized avenues are often despatched to deportation facilities just like the one the place Mr. Kurdi now resides.

His middle, a former jail, is surrounded by fences and beneath guard and Mr. Kurdi is just allowed to sleep exterior the middle twice a month.

Denmark’s purpose is to discourage asylum seekers from coming or staying, mentioned Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, a Danish professor of refugee regulation on the College of Copenhagen.

“Oblique deterrence has turn out to be a scientific response of European states in reference to the present political disaster over asylum in Europe,” Mr. Gammeltoft-Hansen mentioned. “Denmark has been a front-runner and a supply of inspiration for others.”

Different European international locations have additionally toughened their insurance policies on Syrian refugees. Germany has lifted a ban on deportations to Syria for these convicted of significant crimes, and Sweden has stopped granting residency permits to some Syrians.

However none have gone so far as Denmark.

A lot of the Syrians who received residency permits in Denmark can keep for now, because the measures solely have an effect on those that got here from the Damascus space. However the Danish authorities at the moment are reassessing the safety state of affairs in different elements of Syria, that means hundreds extra could possibly be in danger.

Denmark’s immigration ministry says that just about 400 Syrians have returned residence voluntarily, they usually have been provided $30,000 to go away.

But among the many greater than 250 Syrians who had their residency permits revoked and filed appeals, extra have now received than misplaced.

A type of who received an enchantment is Sami al-Dyab, a 50-year-old manufacturing unit employee in southern Denmark who fled Syria in 2014. He was joined by his spouse and 5 kids a 12 months later they usually purchased a home in 2019. Quickly after, Mr. al-Dyab misplaced his residency allow.

On a current afternoon in Copenhagen, he emerged from Denmark’s Refugee Appeals Board, pumping his fists within the air in victory. After drying his tears, he referred to as his employer.

“All is nice,” he mentioned. “We’re staying right here in Denmark.”

The federal government measures in opposition to Syrians have crystallized tensions between Danes who favor anti-immigrant measures and people in opposition to them. About 80 % of Danish voters now disapprove of the measures, in accordance with one current survey.

Mattias Tesfaye, the nation’s immigration minister, mentioned within the European Parliament earlier this 12 months that Denmark needed to shield itself from issues brought on by the mixing of too many immigrants. He insisted that those that returned to the Damascus space wouldn’t be endangered.

Mr. Tesfaye declined a number of interview requests, however mentioned in a press release that he wasn’t liable for the safety assessments of Syrian areas, nor for the selections on asylum functions.

For a lot of who’ve misplaced their residence permits, going again to Syria is out of the query.

“We received’t return so long as Bashar is there,” mentioned Asmaa al-Natour, a 51-year-old Syrian who was despatched to an asylum middle within the northern city of Holstebro together with her husband, Omar. “However we’ll return as quickly as he’s gone.”

Not like the deportation facilities, the middle in Holstebro is for newly arrived asylum seekers, or for these just like the al-Natours who’ve appealed the revocation of their residency permits and are awaiting a closing determination.

The asylum middle has higher circumstances. Ms. and Mr. al-Natour have a automobile, can examine, and obtain a month-to-month stipend of $320 every.

Denmark’s insurance policies on refugees and asylum seekers have break up up many households.

Mr. Kurdi’s 28-year-old son Mohammad, who’s married to a Danish lady and has two daughters, obtained refugee standing in Denmark as a result of he dangers being drafted into Syria’s navy. Meaning he can proceed to dwell within the suburbs of Copenhagen along with his household.

The Kaershovedgaard middle, the place Mr. Kurdi is detained, holds about 250 individuals — a few of them awaiting deportation to international locations apart from Syria. He’s allowed to go away twice a month to fulfill his household or lawyer.

On a current go to to the middle, a number of the widespread areas have been full of rubbish. One other middle was infested with rats, in accordance with footage seen by The New York Instances.

Confronted with no future in Denmark, Mr. Kurdi tried to go away final 12 months for Germany, solely to be rejected and deported again to Denmark. His son Mohammad mentioned Mr. Kurdi regretted his determination to maneuver to Denmark.

“My dad has no future right here,” he mentioned. “He’s ready for nothing.”

Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.



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