Denmark is considering sending Syrian refugees home as it deems areas under the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus safe, Sputnik reported.
The Danish government is fast-tracking a review of residence permits for some 900 Syrian refugees from Damascus, claiming that Damascus is safe, leaving there no reason for them to warrant Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
In the announcement, Danish Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said that any refugees forced to return would be given travel money.
"Last year, there were almost 100,000 refugees returning to Syria from the surrounding areas. I think it is fair that the people who live here in Europe also return home if they don't need protection," Tesfaye added.
The announcement has come under severe criticism from human rights campaigners who point out that no area of Syria is currently safe to return to.
Some Syrian experts condemned the decision emphasising that anyone who returns is at risk, and that Denmark is setting a dangerous precedent for the treatment of Syrians by EU countries.
The Danish decision to say Damascus was safe was wrong when it was made and remains wrong. Even worse, it has given a crack in the door to other countries to follow suit. Rather than reconsidering individual cases, they should reconsider their own policy. https://t.co/2SbRBJQa86
— Emma Beals (@ejbeals) June 29, 2020
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stressed that there was no prospect for a peaceful solution to the long-standing conflict in Syria.
"Unless the situation in Syria is significantly improved in terms of ensuring protection for the population, UNHCR calls on states that have received Syrian refugees – including Denmark – to continue their protection," UNHCR spokeswoman Elisabeth Arnsdorf Haslund said.
Since 2019, the Danish government has been considering that Damascus and its region are safe places and says the refugees must return there.
Last December, Denmark became the first country to deny a Syrian asylum seeker on the basis that the country is safe, despite continued killings of civilians due to air strikes.