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

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

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

In the course of the interview, in February, officers additionally informed Ms. al-Asseh that the safety state of affairs in her hometown, Damascus, had improved, and that it was protected 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 — at the same time as her 4 brothers and oldsters might keep, and she or he had nowhere else to go.

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

In doing so, Denmark has turn out to be the primary European Union nation to deprive Syrian refugees of their asylum standing, at the same time as Syria stays shattered. The bloc and the United Nations describe most areas in Syria as not secure sufficient to be thought-about protected for returnees.

These being requested to go away embrace highschool and college college students, truck drivers, manufacturing facility staff, retailer house owners and volunteers in nongovernmental organizations. All danger being uprooted from a rustic the place they’ve constructed new lives.

“It’s as if the Danish immigration companies has bombed my dream, simply as Bashar al-Assad bombed our houses,” mentioned Asmaa al-Natour, 50, referring to Syria’s president. “Solely 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 have been informed that their residence permits wouldn’t be renewed, whereas their two sons, ages 20 and 22, can keep. The sons have been granted asylum on the premise of risking persecution in Syria.

A lot of the 34,000 Syrians who’ve obtained residence permits in Denmark because the warfare started of their nation in 2011 haven’t had their residency reviewed. But the transfer to strip lots of of their authorized standing is the newest in a collection of measures by Denmark that rights teams say have focused migrants and minorities.

The authorities have imposed obligatory 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’ve additionally overhauled the nation’s authorized equipment on immigration, shifting it from integration to the accelerated return of refugees to their native international locations. Tons of of Somali refugees have additionally misplaced their residence permits after Denmark deemed Somalia protected to return to.

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

“The one strategy to beat the right-wing in Denmark is to promote your soul to the satan and be as powerful on immigration with a purpose to have help for social welfare insurance policies in return,” Mr. Mouritsen mentioned.

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

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

“We have now made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence allow is momentary,” Mr. Tesfaye mentioned in February.

For these prepared to return to Syria, Mr. Tesfaye mentioned that Denmark would provide “an enormous bag of journey cash.” The authorities say that lots of determined to return voluntarily.

Michala Bendixen, Denmark’s nation coordinator for the European Union’s web site on integration, mentioned the coverage threatened to tear Syrian households aside. “The one goal is to make Denmark the final place to decide on as an asylum seeker,” Ms. Bendixen, who can be the chair of Refugees Welcome, a nonprofit, mentioned in an interview.

As a result of the Danish authorities doesn’t preserve diplomatic relationships with Mr. al-Assad’s authorities, the authorities can not 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 facilities.

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

There, they await months.

“Individuals danger sitting there for the indefinite future, with no prospect of being despatched again forcefully, however no likelihood of dwelling their lives in Denmark both,” mentioned Charlotte Slente, the secretary normal of the Danish Refugee Council.

That may be the destiny of Ms. al-Asseh, who was notified final month that she shall be requested to go away Denmark if she loses her enchantment 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 dad and mom and siblings arrived in Denmark. As a result of she was not a minor, she couldn’t declare asylum by way of household reunification and needed to apply on her personal.

Whereas her brothers danger being drafted into Syria’s navy, Ms. al-Asseh was the one one to be summoned for an interview with the Danish immigration companies.

“I’m making an attempt my finest to slot 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. However, she mentioned, “that stigma round refugees, particularly Muslims, has been so hurtful.”

Syria is a rustic in ruins, with a collapsed economic system 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 additionally referred to as on Syrians to return again, however many say they received’t for one motive: Mr. al-Assad himself.

“So long as it’s not peaceable and the president continues to be there, we don’t need to return,” mentioned Hussam Alkholi, a 20-year-old highschool scholar 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 dad and mom and two sisters.

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

Tons of of returnees have disappeared, in line with the Syrian Community for Human Rights, and the European Union’s asylum physique has warned that voluntary returnees are vulnerable to detention, torture and dying.

“The absence of combating in some areas doesn’t imply that folks can return safely,” mentioned Ms. Slente of the Danish Refugee Council.

Ms. al-Asseh, the chemistry and biotechnology scholar, mentioned she had tried to concentrate on her research since studying that her residency allow can be revoked. But she mentioned the considered beginning over once more terrified her.

“I’m not a hazard. I’m not a legal,” she mentioned. “I simply need to stay right here.”

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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