Germany plans to repatriate Syrians
Some state ministers want to cut down the asylum period to six months to permit expulsions from June
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.
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.