Authorities Use Threats, Detention to Coerce Returns
VDC statement on Denmark’s decision to return the Syrian refugees
April 18, 2021
Denmark is one of those countries that signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and inhuman and degrading treatment. If Denmark has detained a person with the intention to deport him to Syria in the absence of a realistic possibility, including the possibility of him being harmed in his own country (Syria, Damascus), or the person can not object to his deportation, the detention is definitely arbitrary.
Any Syrian suspected of violating the Danish civil or criminal law should be tried under the law. He must have the opportunity to defend himself in a court or be released.
Denmark is bound by the non-refoulement rule under the customary international law, which prohibits returning anyone and in any form to a place where he/she may face a real risk of persecution, torture, ill-treatment or life threat.
The Danish government is not permitted to use deception, pressure, threats of violence or detention to force people to return to places where they may be harmed or prosecuted. This includes the Syrian asylum seekers or those residing in Denmark whose residency has been withdrawn, and those whose residency is renewed. Violating this means that Denmark is a country that no longer adheres to the European Union standards and bears the consequences and risks (including the possibility of being killed or arrested) of returning to Syria.
The European Commission should publish periodic reports on the deportations that the Danish government claims to carry out against the Syrians. The Commission, together with the EU members, must publicly call on Denmark to stop these arbitrary deportations and to allow the UNHCR to supervise whether the detained Syrians want to stay in Denmark or they want to return voluntarily.
Regardless of any guarantees obtained by the Danish government from (Damascus), returning the Syrian refugees under the current situation can not be justified.
The European Commission should openly and urgently acknowledge that Denmark is committing grave violations against the Syrians, must press the country to end these violations, and must press the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to monitor whether Syrians held in migrant deportation centers or other facilities wish actually to stay or not.