Vejle (Denmark) (AFP)
Sabriya al-Fayyad is terrified of what the Syrian regime will do to her family if Denmark sends them – like hundreds of other Syrians – to Damascus.
“I’m afraid to return to Syria, to this regime that killed my husband and his brother,” she told AFP.
At the end of March, al-Fayyad and his two young daughters had their Danish residence permits revoked after the Danish authorities announced that they now considered the Syrian capital “safe”.
Her two sons, who are old enough to be drafted into the Syrian army, were allowed to stay in Denmark.
“I’m afraid of being arrested, let them ask me” Where are your sons? They must do their military service! “Said the 46-year-old wearily, in her neat apartment in the city of western Denmark. by Vejle.
Here she is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and is slowly learning Danish.
She worries about her daughters – Shahed, 10, who sports a mischievous smile, and Tasnim, 12, the most serious of the couple. They did all of their schooling in Denmark and can speak Arabic but not write it.
“If they stop me, who will take care of them?” She asks, adding that the family’s house in Damascus has been bombed.
– ‘We are a family’ –
Al-Fayyad was granted a residence permit in 2016 due to the general unrest in Syria.
But like her, at least 200 Syrians have had their residence permits revoked since mid-2020.
It was then that Copenhagen decided to re-examine the cases of around 500 Syrians from Damascus, which is under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“The current situation in Damascus is no longer such as to justify a residence permit or the extension of a residence permit,” he said.
The Scandinavian country is the only country in the European Union to have reached such a conclusion, arousing international condemnation.
Abdo became the patriarch of the family when his father was killed in Syria. He first came to Denmark in 2014. His brother followed him, then his mother and sisters.
He does everything he can to keep his family from being torn apart.
“The Danish migration (services) did not take into account that we are a family,” says the 27-year-old, recently married storekeeper. He fears for the well-being of his sisters.
“I took care of them, they grew up with me. They loved me like their father, ”he says.
– Aim for zero asylum seekers –
Successive Danish governments have made it clear that they do not want more asylum seekers, tightening the screws on several occasions.
“In 2019 there was a change, saying that when we accept refugees in Denmark as a starting point, you are here temporarily (and) at some point you will have to go back,” told AFP the family’s immigration lawyer, Daniel Norrung.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Social Democrat, has adopted a goal of “zero asylum seekers”.
It’s a hard line for a left-wing party determined to steal votes from the far right, in a country where half of the 5.8 million people see immigration as a threat.
“We have had increased integration problems … lack of jobs, high crime rates, cultural clashes, and we don’t want to make these problems worse,” says Rasmus Stoklund, spokesperson for the Social Democrats on the migration.
Mohamed, Abdo’s 18-year-old brother, has felt lost since his family heard the news.
“I go to school, I work, I prepare to start upper secondary school. I’m doing it right… It doesn’t seem right, ”he says in fluent Danish.
Most of Norrung’s customers have to wait a year to find out if they’ve won their appeal. So far, the Danish Immigration Appeals Board has overturned around half of the cases.
– International outrage –
The United Nations, the European Commission and NGOs have all severely criticized Denmark’s decision, insisting that recent improvements in parts of Syria do not justify ending refugee protection.
But Copenhagen refused to budge.
Last week, the Danish parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a statement supporting the decision.
“There is no reason why people who are not personally persecuted should not come back now,” Stoklund said.
Abdo says this position is indefensible.
“When you say that Syria is safe at the same time that all the countries in the world say that Syria is not safe… it is a lie,” he said.
Under Danish law, temporary residence permits are issued without a deadline in the event of “a particularly serious situation in the country of origin characterized by arbitrary violence and attacks against civilians”.
But they can be revoked once conditions are deemed to improve.
While no one can be forcibly removed, in the absence of diplomatic relations with Damascus, rejected Syrians are urged to leave voluntarily or to be placed in an administrative center until further notice.
Some 35,500 Syrians currently live in Denmark, more than half of whom arrived in 2015, according to Statistics Denmark.
© 2021 AFP