They ‘Bombed My Dream’: Denmark Strips Some Syrians of Residency Status

Ghalia al-Asseh had simply begun learning chemistry and biotechnology on the Technical University of Denmark when the nation’s immigration providers summoned her for an interview.

For 5 hours, immigration officers requested about her proficiency in Danish, which she speaks fluently. They inquired how properly built-in she was in Denmark, the place she has lived along with her household since fleeing Syria in 2015.

During the interview, in February, officers additionally informed Ms. al-Asseh that the safety scenario in her hometown, Damascus, had improved, and that it was secure for her to return to Syria, she recalled in a phone interview final week.

Ms. al-Asseh, 27, was shedding her proper to stay in Denmark — whilst her 4 brothers and oldsters might keep, and he or she had nowhere else to go.

Since the Danish immigration providers mentioned in 2019 that they deemed Damascus and its surrounding areas secure, they’ve reviewed the residence permits of 1,250 Syrians who, like Ms. al-Asseh, left their nation throughout its civil conflict. The authorities have now revoked or not prolonged the residence permits of greater than 250 of them.

In doing so, Denmark has grow to be the primary European Union nation to deprive Syrian refugees of their asylum standing, whilst Syria stays shattered. The bloc and the United Nations describe most areas in Syria as not stable enough to be thought of secure for returnees.

Those being requested to go away embrace highschool and college college students, truck drivers, manufacturing unit workers, retailer homeowners and volunteers in nongovernmental organizations. All threat being uprooted from a rustic the place they’ve constructed new lives.

“It is as if the Danish immigration services has bombed my dream, just as Bashar al-Assad bombed our homes,” mentioned Asmaa al-Natour, 50, referring to Syria’s president. “Only this time the bombing is psychological.”

Ms. al-Natour was talking from the city of Ringsted, 30 miles southwest of Copenhagen, the place she and her husband stay. In February, the couple had been informed that their residence permits wouldn’t be renewed, whereas their two sons, ages 20 and 22, can keep. The sons had been granted asylum on the idea of risking persecution in Syria.

Most of the 34,000 Syrians who’ve obtained residence permits in Denmark because the conflict started of their nation in 2011 haven’t had their residency reviewed. Yet the transfer to strip tons of of their authorized standing is the most recent in a collection of measures by Denmark that rights teams say have focused migrants and minorities.

The authorities have imposed necessary instruction in “Danish values” for kids in low-income and closely Muslim neighborhoods that the federal government labeled “ghettos,” and doubled punishments for sure crimes in these areas.

They have additionally overhauled the country’s legal apparatus on immigration, shifting it from integration to the accelerated return of refugees to their native nations. Hundreds of Somali refugees have additionally misplaced their residence permits after Denmark deemed Somalia secure to return to.

Per Mouritsen, an affiliate professor of political science at Aarhus University, mentioned the federal government had toughened its stance on immigration lately to keep away from shedding votes to the suitable wing, a dilemma that a number of center-left events throughout Europe have confronted.

“The only way to beat the right-wing in Denmark is to sell your soul to the devil and be as tough on immigration in order to have support for social welfare policies in return,” Mr. Mouritsen mentioned.

Last 12 months, the quantity of refugees leaving Denmark exceeded the quantity of arrivals. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has vowed to go additional, saying that Denmark will goal to have “zero asylum seekers.”

Explaining the strikes affecting Syrians, Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye has mentioned that Denmark was “honest from day one” with them.

“We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary,” Mr. Tesfaye said in February.

For these keen to return to Syria, Mr. Tesfaye said that Denmark would supply “a huge bag of travel money.” The authorities say that tons of determined to return voluntarily.

Michala Bendixen, Denmark’s nation coordinator for the European Union’s website on integration, mentioned the coverage threatened to tear Syrian households aside. “The only purpose is to make Denmark the last place to choose as an asylum seeker,” Ms. Bendixen, who can also be the chair of Refugees Welcome, a nonprofit, mentioned in an interview.

Because the Danish authorities doesn’t keep diplomatic relationships with Mr. al-Assad’s authorities, the authorities can’t forcibly deport refugees. Since most of them are unwilling to return voluntarily, those that misplaced their appeals after their residency was revoked are prone to be despatched to departure centers.

The Danish authorities didn’t reply to questions on why the coverage was applied for Syrians and what number of had been despatched to departure facilities.

There, they anticipate months.

“People risk sitting there for the indefinite future, with no prospect of being sent back forcefully, but no chance of living their lives in Denmark either,” mentioned Charlotte Slente, the secretary normal of the Danish Refugee Council.

That could be the destiny of Ms. al-Asseh, who was notified final month that she can be requested to go away Denmark if she loses her attraction this 12 months.

The final one in her household to go away Syria in late 2015, Ms. al-Asseh obtained her residence allow months after her mother and father and siblings arrived in Denmark. Because she was not a minor, she couldn’t declare asylum by way of household reunification and needed to apply on her personal.

While her brothers threat being drafted into Syria’s army, Ms. al-Asseh was the one one to be summoned for an interview with the Danish immigration providers.

“I am trying my best to fit in, to contribute to the Danish society by educating myself, by paying my taxes,” Ms. al-Asseh mentioned. She added that her household had nothing left in Syria and that she noticed her future solely in Denmark. But, she mentioned, “that stigma around refugees, in particular Muslims, has been so hurtful.”

Syria is a rustic in ruins, with a collapsed economy and half of its prewar inhabitants displaced. Mr. al-Assad has reclaimed management of two-thirds of its territory, together with the Damascus space. He has also called on Syrians to come back, however many say they received’t for one cause: Mr. al-Assad himself.

“As long as it is not peaceful and the president is still there, we don’t want to return,” mentioned Hussam Alkholi, a 20-year-old highschool pupil and warehouse employee dwelling in Kolding in western Denmark.

Mr. Alkholi, who’s from the Damascus space, discovered in February that his residence allow in Denmark wouldn’t be prolonged, together with these of his mother and father and two sisters.

Rights teams have reported varied threats in opposition to refugees who return, together with conscription for males and arrest based mostly on the suspicion that anybody who sided with the rebels who tried to overthrow Mr. al-Assad is a traitor.

Hundreds of returnees have disappeared, in line with the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the European Union’s asylum physique has warned that voluntary returnees are in danger of detention, torture and loss of life.

“The absence of fighting in some areas does not mean that people can go back safely,” mentioned Ms. Slente of the Danish Refugee Council.

Ms. al-Asseh, the chemistry and biotechnology pupil, mentioned she had tried to concentrate on her research since studying that her residency allow could be revoked. Yet she mentioned the thought of beginning over once more terrified her.

“I’m not a danger. I’m not a criminal,” she mentioned. “I just want to live here.”

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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