Letter to Danish Prime Minister – Syrian Refugees /Asylum and Migration Policy21. Mai 2021
Response by Danish Minister for Immigration and Integration
21th May 2021
Dear Katrin Langensiepen and members of the European Parliament,
Thank you for your letter. In agreement with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, I will reply to your letter as it relates to asylum and migration policy. I understand and acknowledge that this subject and the situation in Syria are of great concern to all of you.
The approach of the Danish government is to provide protection to those in need of it, but when the conditions in the home country have improved, former refugees should return to their home country and re-establish a life there. Denmark has made it clear to refugees – including the Syrians – that their residence permits are temporary and that they can be revoked if the need for protection ceases to exist.
At this point the revocation and denying of extension of residence permits only apply to persons from Damascus and Rif Damascus with temporary residence permits granted on the grounds of general conditions as laid out in the Danish Aliens Act section 7 (2) or section 7 (3). Persons from Syria with a residence permit granted on individual grounds, e.g. persons in conflict with the Syrian authorities due to fleeing compulsory military service, which is therefore within the scope of the 1951 Refugee Convention, are not affected.
All cases are assessed by the Danish Immigration Service in first instance and automatically referred to the Refugee Appeals Board which is the second and final instance. The Board is an independent, quasi-judicial body consisting of three members with the chairperson being an appointed judge. The members of the Board may not accept or seek directions from anyone including the Ministry or Minister of Immigration and Integration.
The Immigration Service and the Board thoroughly review every case in order to make sure that a person with a need for protection retains his or her residence permit. When assessing whether a person is still entitled to protection in Denmark, the Danish Immigration Service and the Refugee Appeals Board take into account both the current general conditions in the person’s home area and any individual circumstances, which may imply that the person at hand is still in need of protection.
The decision to reassess the residence permits of persons from Damascus and Rif Damascus was based on a conclusion on the general security situation in Damascus and Rif Damascus from the Refugee Appeals Board. Based on the background information available, the Refugee Appeals Board found that the situation in Damascus and Rif Damascus has changed to such effect that people do not risk illtreatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights solely on account of their presence in those areas. The Board still finds the situation in Damascus and Rif Damascus severe, fragile and unpredictable, but concluded that the situation has improved, and the Board do not consider the changes to be of a completely temporary nature.
The Board has, according to its mandate, made the assessment based on a wide collection of reports regarding Syria from various sources including reports from the Danish Immigration Service, the authorities in Sweden and Great Britain, EASO and different NGOs.
The Board’s decisions are in accordance with the Danish Aliens Act – In which the aforementioned criteria are set out – as well as Denmark’s international obligations, including article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
In regards to forced returns to Syria, there are currently exceptional circumstances. The Danish government has decided that in the interest of Danish foreign policy, Denmark currently does not carry out forced returns to Syria. It is an assessment based on an analysis and a policy, which Denmark shares with our closest allies in Europe and the US. Denmark has not carried out any forced returns to Syria since 2012. However, this does not change the Danish government’s position on temporary protection and the Government stand by the policy on this matter. The Danish authorities will continue to assist persons from Syria in Denmark with arranging their voluntary return and offer financial assistance in case of such return.
Minister for Immigration and Integration
Prins Jørgens Gård 11
1218 København K
Dear Prime Minister Frederiksen,
It is with great regret and incomprehension that we have been following the developments in Danish migration policy and, in particular, your government’s efforts to expel Syrian refugees back to Syria. This country cannot be described as safe under any circumstances. That is why the simple slogan „Syria is not safe!“ remains so right and important and should be the basis for all political decisions in these matters – also for the EU member state Denmark.
The European Commission has emphasized that the conditions in Syria do not speak in favor of the return of refugees and that Denmark should not force anyone to return. In its resolution in March 2021, the European Parliament also underlined this important fact and called upon all member states to maintain the protection status of Syrian refugees and to even strengthen it if there are any tendencies that indicate a revocation of comprehensive legal protection. Moreover, this week UNHCR reiterated that despite relative security improvements in parts of the territory, Syria is not of a fundamental, stable, and durable character to warrant cessation of refugee status based on Article 1C (5) of the 1951 Convention.
These demands reflect the assessments of many experts, non-governmental organizations, and other foreign ministries, which perceive the situation in Syria at best as superficially pacified. The Syrian regime is trying to simulate normality by organizing elections, among other things. At the same time, it continues to act against critics at home and in other European countries with a decisiveness and determination that is despicable in human rights terms.
We would like to remind you that from our deep understanding of European values we bear responsibility for those who have fled to us from the turmoil of the Syrian war. Especially the children and families should be enabled to experience a form of safety that allows them to build a future. Any form of implicit or explicit pressure and the questioning of the protection status stirs up insecurity and fear about precisely this better future.
In its Charter of Fundamental Rights, Europe places the human being at the center of all action and commits itself to being an area of freedom, security and justice. In Koblenz, Germany, a court is attempting to administer this justice in a unique criminal trial regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. Doesn’t it seem more than cynical here to call Syria a safe country and to create the conditions for deportation to this country?
We thus urge you to reconsider the path you are currently taking and to make nothing less than a 180-degree turnaround in your current asylum and migration policy (i.e., the Danish law namely Udlændingeloven par 7.3).
Migration is, in historical terms, a completely normal phenomenon. Deportations to a country at war must never be normal. Denmark should not take a vanguard role here.
We look forward to your reply and appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.
Katrin Langensiepen (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Rasmus Andresen (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Özlem Alev Demirel (MEP | GUE/NGL | Germany)
Viola von Cramon (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Alice Bah Kuhnke (MEP | Greens/EFA | Sweden)
Jakop Dalunde (MEP | Greens/EFA | Sweden)
Pär Holmgren (MEP | Greens/EFA | Sweden)
Terry Reintke (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Niklas Nienaß (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Saskia Bricmont (MEP | Greens/EFA |Belgium)
Daniel Freund (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Anna Cavazzini (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Karen Melchior (MEP | Renew Europe | Denmark)
Ville Niinistö (MEP | Greens/EFA | Finland)
Barry Andrews (MEP | Renew Europe | Ireland)
Dietmar Köster (MEP | S&D | Germany)
Morten Helveg Petersen (MEP | Renew Europe | Denmark)
Thijs Reuten (MEP | S&D| Netherlands)
Samira Rafaela (MEP | Renew Europe |Netherlands)
Salima Yenbou (MEP | Greens/EFA | France)
Damian Boeselager (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Monika Vana (MEP | Greens/EFA |Austria)
Margrete Auken (MEP | Greens/EFA | Denmark)
Kira Peter-Hansen (MEP | Greens/EFA | Denmark)
Nathalie Loiseau (MEP | Renew Europe |France)
Tineke Strik (MEP | Greens/EFA | Netherlands)
Rosa D’Amato (MEP | Greens/EFA | Italy)
Alviina Alametsä (MEP | Greens/EFA | Finland)
Róża Thun und Hohenstein (MEP | EPP | Poland)
Patrick Breyer (MEP | Greens/EFA | Germany)
Diana Riba I Giner (MEP | Greens/EFA | Spain)
Mounir Satouri (MEP | Greens/EFA | France)