SOHR:Condemnation of a forced return of refugees to Syria
“Why did you leave Syria? Don’t you like Bashar al-Assad? ”A security agent asked Noor when he was returning from exile in Lebanon. “You are a terrorist and Syria is not a hotel that you can enter and leave as you please,” he snapped at the border. The officer later raped her in the same interrogation room and later forced her five-year-old daughter as well. Dozens of refugees who have returned to Syria have suffered arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, have died after being detained or have been reported missing. While some European countries – such as Denmark – propose the return of refugees to areas of the Arab country considered safe and without military activity, Amnesty International (AI) has documented a large memorial of abuses in the investigation You’re going to your death (You are going to your death), made public this Tuesday.
Inquiries into the human rights violations of, among many others, 66 returnees, including 13 children, include five deaths in the custody of the security forces and 17 cases in which the whereabouts of the detainees are unknown. They had returned to their country from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates between 2017 and 2021. The investigation was based on interviews with returned exiles and their family and friends, as well as lawyers, aid workers and experts in Syria. All names used in the report are fictitious to protect the identity of the filers.
“You have come to ruin the country and complete what you started before you left,” Karim was questioned by a security agent also at a border post on the Lebanese border, where he was detained and tortured. “I told him that I was returning to my homeland, to my town, but they told me that I am a terrorist because I come from [una conocida localidad partidaria de la oposición no identificada también por seguridad]”Says his testimony before Amnesty International investigators. “I was five months without being able to see anyone when he was dressing. He had nightmares, hallucinations ”, details his account of more than half a year of torture. Karim has suffered disabling damage to his right hand and injuries to his spine.
The Danish government in April revoked the residence permits of more than 200 Syrian refugees, arguing that there are regions in Syria that are safe enough to guarantee their return after President Bashar al-Assad’s rampages, backed by pro-Russia and Iran have regained control of more than 70% of the national territory. The cessation of hostilities imposed by the pandemic over the course of a year and a half has not been maintained, however, in recent weeks in the troubled province of Deraa, in the south of the country, where the popular protest against the regime that broke out in 2011 lit the fuse of a civil war with international repercussions.
“Military hostilities may have subsided [en algunas zonas]But torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions that forced many people to request asylum are still common in Syria, ”says Marie Forestier, AI researcher on the rights of refugees and migrants. “Any government that claims that Syria is now a safe country is deliberately ignoring the dire reality on the ground,” he warns.
Ibrahim told Amnesty International that his cousin and his family – his wife and three children aged eight, four and two years old – were arrested in Syria upon returning from France in 2019. Since then he has not heard from his relatives, whose enforced disappearance he denounces . “No part of Syria is safe,” emphasizes the AI report, despite the fact that the Syrian authorities are publicly encouraging the return of the refugees.
“The governments of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan”, which concentrate most of the exiles in border states, “must protect Syrians from deportation or any other forced return, in accordance with their international obligations”, defends the international humanitarian organization.
Along with Denmark, countries such as Sweden have reviewed the residence permits of asylum seekers from Syrian regions considered safe, such as the capital and its rural area. “A third of the documented cases involve human rights violations committed in Damascus or its province,” Amnesty International points out.
The Danish Government has replied to the criticisms of European organizations and the UN that its objective is to discourage the arrival of refugees given the “unsustainable situation of the asylum system” of the 35,000 Syrian exiles, of whom more than 20,000 arrived in the wave Massive 2015. Those who have been selected for repatriation to safe areas may end up in a deportation center and lose their work permits.
Ismail, who was detained in four different sections of the intelligence services for three and a half months upon his return to Syria, recounts his ordeal starkly. “They gave me electric shocks between my eyes. I felt my whole brain shake. I wished for death ”, he describes in his testimony the torture he suffered. Refugees fear for their lives if they are forced to return to territories under the control of the Damascus regime, Amnesty International researchers conclude.
Following a short-lived ceasefire agreement, Syrian forces this week resumed attacks on the Al Balad district of the southern Syrian city of Deraa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has informants on the ground. After two months of siege, more than 50,000 civilians have fled the city, which remained in the hands of the insurgents from 2011 to 2018, when a capitulation agreement was reached.
In return, government troops agreed not to take control of Deraa Al Balad and leave it to civilians. Up to now. Thousands of fighters and their families have refused to be forcibly displaced to Idlib province, the last insurgent stronghold in the northeast of the country, and are demanding to be able to leave safely through the borders of Turkey or Jordan.