The Stream

Is Denmark abandoning Syrian refugees?

On Tuesday, May 25 at 19:30 GMT:
Hundreds of Syrian refugees who have spent years rebuilding their lives in Denmark now face the prospect of losing their residency – leaving them with little option but to return to Syria and potentially face the threat of arbitrary arrest and violence.

Danish authorities have in recent weeks been reconsidering the status of at least 800 refugees who were granted temporary protection after fleeing wartime violence in Damascus and the Rif Damascus governorate. The Social Democrat-led government now deems those areas safe.

The government offers money to those who lose their residency in order for them to relocate, but refugees who lose their temporary protection status cannot be deported as Denmark has no diplomatic relations with Syria. Those who don’t leave Denmark after losing their residency permit face the prospect of ultimately being held indefinitely at much-criticised ‘removal centres’ in remote areas, without the right to work or study.

At least 380 refugees have had their temporary residence either revoked or not renewed by the Danish Immigration Service since Denmark deemed Damascus and its surrounding areas safe, Amnesty International says. A group of experts who testified to the Danish Immigration Service about safety in Syria recently signed an open letter declaring they “do not recognise [their] views in subsequent government conclusions or policies.”

Some families have been torn apart by recent immigration rulings that revoke some members’ residency status, while allowing others to stay in Denmark. Rights groups say the loss of one family member’s residency often forces other family members to go back to Syria with them.

People across Denmark are now raising their voice in protest at the policies, but the government is unmoved. Mattias Tesfaye, the Danish minister of immigration and integration, said in February that the government had been “honest from day one” with Syrian refugees with temporary status.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at the problems faced by refugees who have lost their temporary residency rights, why the Danish government is adopting its stance, and the efforts by rights groups to ensure that refugees can continue living their lives in Denmark.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Michala Bendixen, @mc_bendixen
Chair, Refugees Welcome

Fawaz Alzatto, @FawazTz
Activist and Syrian refugee

Niels Jespersen, @NHJespersen
Journalist and editor, Pio