The Swedish authorities are planning to deport a Syrian refugee at the end of his four-year prison sentence, despite him being wanted by the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Samir Ahmad Mardini is imprisoned in the city of Sala having been found guilty of kidnapping and assault in a business dispute. His deportation is scheduled to be finalised on 17 January, unless the process is delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Syrian opposition news outlet Zaman Al-Wasl, which cited a source close to Mardini, Sweden has contacted the Syrian Embassy in Stockholm to check if he is wanted by the authorities and if his deportation will be accepted. The embassy apparently accepted the offer and said it is ready to issue a one-time travel document for him. Officials claimed that he is not wanted by the Syrian government and assured the Swedes that he will not be at risk upon his return.
However, it is said that there is only a remote chance that Mardini will be safe back in Syria, as he was arrested by Syrian security services back in June 2011, where he was detained in the infamous Al-Khatib Branch 251 and tortured for three months. He was then smuggled out after his family paid a bribe to an officer, escaping first to Jordan and going from there to Sweden in 2014. Moreover, despite assurances by the Assad regime about refugees' safety when they return to the Syria, those who have returned to date have often been subject to arrest, interrogation and torture by the regime's security and intelligence services.
Mardini appealed against the deportation decision through his lawyer, and asked that if he is going to be deported that he is sent to any other country except Syria due to the risk of re-arrest and torture. More specifically, he has requested to be transferred to Jordan, as his 8-year-old daughter apparently lives alone in a refugee camp there following the death of his wife a few months ago, shortly after his mother and sister died. Jordan has refused his request.
A relative of the imprisoned refugee told Zaman Al-Wasl that he would hold the Swedish government responsible for any harm that comes to Mardini. The authorities should abide by Swedish law, international human rights law and human rights organisations, he insisted.
Some European countries such as Sweden and Denmark have refused to heed concerns by human rights groups by deeming Syria to be "safe" and have deported a number of refugees there over the years.