Non-governmental organisations on Friday condemned the "scandalous and illegal" attempts in France to deport migrants to Syria and called on the French government to clarify these practices that violate international law.
The two attempts date back to October 2022, when the authorities of the Haute-Garonne and the Paris Prefecture of Police, according to Amnesty International, La Cimade and Revivre, in a joint press release, began: "Demarches with the Syrian Embassy in France, while diplomatic relations between France and Syria have been officially severed since March 2012."
The organisations stressed that they are: "Scandalous and illegal attempts in international law. Our organisations are asking the government to clarify its position by reminding the prefectures of France's international obligations, which categorically prohibit the return of a person to a country where he is in danger of death, torture and other ill-treatment."
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Manon Fillonnot, Amnesty International's head of migration, expressed: "We have not seen this before in recent years. It is shocking that, in a relentless effort to implement orders to leave French territory, the authorities are violating France's commitment that it does not have diplomatic relations with Syria. It is inconceivable that anyone will be deported to Ukraine today."
The organisations stressed that although the liberty and custody judge eventually released the two persons concerned, the mere initiation of the proceedings by placing them in administrative detention centres is a violation: "In full knowledge of the facts of international and European rules."
According to the organisations, only the refusal of the Syrian Embassy to issue a consular pass due to the lack of a valid identity document: "Allowed to prevent the expulsion requested by the French authorities."
"France must publicly declare its commitment to the Geneva Convention: France must not detain or attempt to deport any person to a country where there is a risk of being subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and where his life or freedom would be in danger," asserted the statement signatories.
Fillonnot noted that the persecution of people returning to Syria after they sought asylum abroad is "excellently documented."
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On Friday, the French Interior Ministry claimed that: "There was no deportation to Syria. Sometimes it is necessary to contact the Syrian authorities through the consular authorities to verify the Syrian nationality of an irregular alien claiming it, in particular, to avoid that all (…) take advantage of Syrian nationality to prevent deportation to their countries of origin."
In an interview with Le Monde last November to present his draft law on immigration, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin indicated that he was open to granting special residency status to Syrians. He explained: "However, there are people who are denied asylum and issued OQTFs but who cannot be deported because they are Syrians or Afghans, and we do not have diplomatic relations with Bashar Al-Assad or the Taliban."
At least 3,825 people were killed in Syria in 2022, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Since its outbreak in 2011, the conflict in Syria has killed nearly half a million people, caused massive damage to infrastructure and the economy and forced more than half of the population to flee inside or outside Syria.
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