British Home Office backs down on Syrian asylum seeker case | Europe | News and events from across the continent | DW

The case concerns a 25-year-old Syrian who arrived in the United Kingdom in May 2020. He allegedly escaped forced conscription into the army in 2017 to avoid being forced to kill other Syrians.

The man, who has not been named for his protection, said his return to Syria would be life threatening. He would be targeted as rebellious, arrested and possibly killed, he said.

In his letter of rejection to the man, reported by The Guardian newspaper, the Interior Ministry said he could return safely to Syria. “I am not convinced to a reasonable degree of probability that you have a well-founded fear of persecution,” the Interior Ministry wrote, according to The Guardian.

In what appears to be a turnaround, the Home Office tweeted on Tuesday that “Under the current circumstances, we are not sending people back to Syria. The UK government agrees with the UN ruling that the Syria remains dangerous for them “.

The Home Office confirmed his statement to DW.

“Fair but firm”

In 2021, the UK introduced a major overhaul of its immigration and asylum system. Addressing Parliament In December, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new law represented a “comprehensive, fair but firm long-term plan that tackles the challenge of illegal migration head-on” .

“Asylum seekers deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally will no longer have the same rights as those who arrive in the country through legal channels,” Patel said. “Even if their application is successful, they will be granted temporary refugee status and risk being held responsible for their removal indefinitely. “

“Asylum seekers may be deported from the UK while their asylum application or appeal is pending, which opens the door to asylum treatment abroad,” she said .

A disturbing movement

Although information on the case of the claimant in question remains scarce, the government’s position is a disturbing and surprising development, said Rim Turkmani, research director for Syria in the Conflict Research Program at the London School of Economics.

Turkmani, who testified before the UK’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Syrian crisis, said that although the level of violence had declined in parts of Syria, the safety of people was still at risk, especially when political motives are involved.

“Avoiding conscription in Syria after 2011 is indeed a political declaration of men who refuse to join an army that attacks civilians, commits war crimes, and where they can be positioned in positions where they must participate themselves. attacks on civilian areas. avoiding conscription puts the person at risk of detention, which, as many human rights organizations have documented, could mean torture and even death. The mere fact that this person has applied for asylum puts them at risk if returned to Syria, “she told DW via email.

A number of UK refugee charities that DW contacted said they were unable to comment on this particular case at this point.

In a statement to DW, Mariam Kemple Hardy, Campaigns Manager at Refugee Action, said: “It is beyond belief that the Home Office is declaring Syria a safe country. Frankly, if this government does not grant more of refuge for Syrian refugees, to whom will it grant asylum? This decision lifts the drawbridge for those fleeing war and persecution. It does not even meet the bare minimum that one would expect from a government claiming to meet its obligations on the world stage.

A spokesperson for the Home Office previously told DW in a statement that he did not comment on individual cases, but added that “all asylum claims are considered on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with policy current published “.

A dangerous precedent?

If the British authorities decide to return the Syrians to areas they deem safe, this could have far-reaching implications.

“First, the Syrian authorities and their allies will use this to pretend that Syria is safe for the return of all refugees. when it is not. Other countries will feel more comfortable adopting the British and Danish line. Most European countries need few excuses in this anti-immigration climate to make it harder to seek asylum, ”Turkmani said.

A protest by a group of Syrians in front of the Swedish embassy in Copenhagen

Countries like Denmark and Sweden have made it harder for Syrians to seek asylum

In 2020, Denmark declared the Syrian capital, Damascus, safe. Authorities have since revoked or failed to renew Danish residence permits for hundreds of Syrians in the region. Sweden has adopted a similar policy.

While UK authorities appeared to back down in this particular case, it highlights the hard line Patel is pursuing on immigration and asylum in order to counter criticism that she is not doing enough specifically to stop the refugee boats arriving from France.

“This case could make her seem tough in the eyes of these critics showing that she is ready to crack down on asylum claims as well as immigration. The atmosphere in Britain unfortunately remains very anti-immigration as we are. we saw in the Brexit referendum, and too many people don’t understand the difference between asylum seekers and other immigrants, ”Turkmani said.

About Brett Williams

Check Also

Iranian weightlifter quits her team and seeks asylum in Germany

The first Iranian weightlifter to win medals in international tournaments has applied for asylum in …