Ger­many plans to repa­tri­ate Syr­i­ans

Some state min­is­ters want to cut down the asy­lum pe­riod to six months to per­mit ex­pul­sions from June

Gulf News - - Middle East -

Later this week, the in­te­rior min­is­ters of the Ger­man states will be dis­cussing, and vot­ing on, a pro­posal to be be­gin forcibly repa­tri­at­ing Syr­ian refugees once their asy­lum sta­tus lapses — as early as next June.

If they agree, it would then be up to the fed­eral in­te­rior min­istry to de­cide whether parts of Syria are safe for re­turn. That is con­sid­ered un­likely, at least for the mo­ment.

But as Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al As­sad mops up re­main­ing op­po­si­tion to his rule, and as the threat from Daesh melts away, Ger­many and other Euro­pean states will have to judge — far sooner than they ex­pected to — whether to send Syr­i­ans back to their dev­as­tated home­land, or to some por­tion of it. Given the po­lit­i­cal pres­sures, there is no rea­son to as­sume that the de­ci­sion will be based on the best in­ter­ests of the refugees them­selves.

Obli­ga­tions of states

The obli­ga­tion of states is spelt out clearly in the 1951 UN Refugee Con­ven­tion, which stip­u­lates that an in­di­vid­ual may not be re­turned if “his life or free­dom may be threat­ened on ac­count of his race, re­li­gion, na­tion­al­ity, mem­ber­ship of a par­tic­u­lar so­cial group or opin­ion”.

Guide­lines is­sued by the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees dic­tate that, once granted asy­lum, refugees may be forcibly re­turned only when con­di­tions in their home have changed fun­da­men­tally and en­dur­ingly, in such a way as to en­sure a guar­an­tee of pro­tec­tion to for­merly per­se­cuted peo­ple. Ger­many has some 200,000 Afghan asy­lum seek­ers, but about 600,000 Syr­i­ans. And while Afghanistan’s civil war only grows worse, Bashar Al As­sad is likely to re­gain his grip on most or even all of the coun­try after wag­ing a piti­less war that has led to around 470,000 deaths.

Many Syr­ian refugees have re­ceived asy­lum for one year, to be re­newed as needed. Some of Ger­many’s pro­vin­cial in­te­rior min­is­ters would like to shorten the pe­riod to six months in or­der to per­mit ex­pul­sions start­ing in June.

They would start with those ac­cused of crimes in Europe, and then per­haps be­gin de­port­ing broader groups. Like Afghans, Syr­i­ans would be sent to zones deemed safe, or to “de-es­ca­la­tion zones” such as Idlib prov­ince gov­erned by frag­ile cease­fire agree­ments.

Would it be ac­cept­able to com­pel, say, fam­i­lies who have fled Aleppo to re­turn to a home that is flat­tened but no longer vi­o­lent? The an­swer is surely no, both for le­gal and for moral rea­sons.

Reuters

Mem­bers of Fifa, on a trip to Egypt, take pho­tos at the Giza pyra­mids on the out­skirts of Cairo on Wed­nes­day. The pyra­mids are one of the Seven Won­ders of the an­cient world.

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