The Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration announced that 94 Syrian refugees have been stripped of their residency permits and asked to return to Damascus, in an unprecedented European move.
Danish Immigration Minister Matthias Tesfaye said that his “country has been open and honest from the beginning about the situation in Syria.”
Tesfaye added, “we have made clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary, and it can be withdrawn if they are no longer in need of protection.”
“We will give people protection as long as it is needed,” he said. “When conditions improve in their home country, the refugee must return to their homeland and re-establish their life there.”
The Danish Immigration and Integration Ministry decided to expand the safe zone in Syria to include, in addition to the capital, the Damascus countryside, which the regime took control of in mid-2018 after battles that destroyed the infrastructure of its major cities.
However, the mechanism of deporting refugees is not clear yet, as controversy took place in Denmark after a proposal was presented by a liberal opposition party to communicate with the Syrian regime about sending refugees back to their home country. The proposal was rejected by officials in Denmark.
The Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for the Opposition Party Mads Vogled called for dialogue between the regime and the European Union, despite his acknowledgment that the regime is “criminal and dictatorial,” according to his description.
Meanwhile, the Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a written comment, “we do not support the liberal party’s proposal.”
Foreign Affairs Rapporteur Rasmus Stocklund considered that accepting the proposal could send a wrong message, namely that Denmark views the regime’s head, Bashar al-Assad, as “the victor,” according to reporting by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in late February.
At present, Denmark is unable to send rejected asylum seekers to Syria by force, due to the European Convention on Human Rights which Denmark has signed on, and which stipulates that Denmark would not send rejected asylum seekers if they would be at risk of torture or political persecution in their countries of origin.
The number of Syrian refugees in Denmark is estimated at 44,000, of whom 35,000 entered the country after 2011.
Some of the refugees obtained political asylum, temporary residency, and temporary protection residencies.
However, in 2020, Denmark recorded a significant decrease in the number of asylum applications (57 percent), due to “the strict immigration policies that it follows,” according to what the Ministry of Immigration said at the beginning of the year.
According to the ministry, only 1,547 people applied for asylum in Denmark during the year 2020, while the year 2015 saw the submission of 21,316 applications.
Denmark announced, in July 2020, that some Syrian asylum seekers could be returned to the governorate of Damascus, according to an assessment made by the Immigration Department that declared that the region was no longer dangerous enough for its people to be granted asylum, which led to the annulment of the asylum of some.