Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home

Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home
A large group of migrants, mainly from Syria, walk towards the north on a highway in Denmark. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 02 March 2021

Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home

Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home
  • Amnesty International: It is ‘an appalling affront to refugee law and people’s right to be safe from persecution’

LONDON: Denmark has come under criticism for becoming the first European nation to tell Syrian refugees they must return to their home country.

The Scandinavian nation has stripped 94 Syrian refugees of their residency permits after it determined Damascus and the surrounding area to be safe.

Human rights groups have spoken out against Copenhagen’s move to send people back to a country that remains ravaged by war.

“That the Danish government is seeking to force people back into the hands of this brutal regime is an appalling affront to refugee law and people’s right to be safe from persecution,” Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International UK, told the Daily Mail.

“This reckless violation of Denmark’s duty to provide asylum also risks increasing incentives for other countries to abandon their own obligations to Syrian refugees,” he added.

“Not only will this put the lives of even more women, men and children at risk. It will add to reasons that cause people to travel ever further afield in search of safety and security for themselves and their family.”

The government said migrants will be sent to Danish deportation camps, but will not be forced to leave.

However, rights groups say the government is trying to give refugees no option but to return to Syria.
Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said last month that the country had been “open and honest from the start” with refugees coming from Syria.
“We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary. It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed,” he added.
“We must give people protection for as long as it is needed. But when conditions in the home country improve, a former refugee should return home and re-establish a life there.”
While Germany had previously ruled that criminals can be deported to Syria, Denmark is the first country in Europe to say refugees can be returned.
The decision means that 350 Syrians will have their temporary protection permits reviewed. This follows some 900 refugees from Damascus who had their cases reassessed last year.

Michala Bendixen, from the rights group Refugees Welcome, said Syrian refugees now face a “very, very tragic situation,” and will be forced from their homes, jobs and studies and into Danish deportation camps.
She told the Daily Telegraph that they face years of limbo. “The government hopes that they will go voluntarily, that they will just give up and go on their own,” she said.
Denmark’s move comes as UN investigators said thousands of civilians had endured “unimaginable suffering” in the war-torn country, including torture, sexual violence and death in detention in the last decade of conflict.
In a report released on Monday, the UN said people arrested by the Assad regime or allied forces had been subjected to inhumane treatment and torture, including rape.
“At least 20 different horrific methods of torture used by the government of Syria have been extensively documented,” the report said.
“These include administering electric shocks, the burning of body parts, pulling off nails and teeth, mock executions, folding detainees into a car tyre and crucifying or suspending individuals from one or two limbs for prolonged periods, often in combination with severe beating.”

Tens of thousands of civilians who were detained are unaccounted for, with no trace of their whereabouts, the UN said.


Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks

Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks
Updated 59 min 50 sec ago

Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks

Blinken reveals uncertainty clouding US-Iran nuclear talks
  • US secretary of state: ‘We don’t yet know’ if Tehran is serious about making a deal in Vienna
  • Blinken tells BBC Iran could acquire nuclear weapons within months

LONDON: Negotiators in talks with Iran over curbs to its nuclear program do not yet know if Tehran is willing to make a deal, according to the White House’s top diplomat.

“We’ve been engaged now in Vienna for some weeks with our European partners, with Russia, China, and indirectly … with Iran,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the BBC on Thursday.

“We’ve demonstrated our very seriousness of purpose in terms of wanting to get back into the so-called JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),” he added. 

“What we don’t yet know is whether Iran is prepared to make the same decision and move forward.” 

Blinken warned that, having progressively walked back on nuclear curbs hammered out as part of the 2015 deal agreed with world powers, Tehran could acquire nuclear weapons within months.

Under the original deal, from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, Iran received billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief in exchange for strict curbs and heavy monitoring of its nuclear program.

“Right now, unfortunately, Iran has itself lifted many of the constraints imposed on it by the agreement because we pulled out,” Blinken said.

“And it’s now getting closer and closer again to that point where its breakout time is going to be down to a few months and eventually even less.”


Egypt and Turkey conclude talks on regional issues

With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded two days of talks in Cairo. (Facebook/@MFAEgyptEnglish)
With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded two days of talks in Cairo. (Facebook/@MFAEgyptEnglish)
Updated 45 min 52 sec ago

Egypt and Turkey conclude talks on regional issues

With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded two days of talks in Cairo. (Facebook/@MFAEgyptEnglish)
  • Talks were aimed at resetting ties between the two regional powers
  • Both sides vowed to evaluate the outcome of their first round of consultations

LONDON: Egypt and Turkey concluded consultations on Thursday in the Egyptian capital Cairo to discuss ties and regional conflicts.
A joint statement described the talks as “frank and in-depth” and dealt with bilateral relations and a number of regional issues, particularly the situations in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and “the need to achieve peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean region.”
The two day consultations were headed by Egyptian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamdi Sanad Loza, and his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal.
“The two sides will evaluate the outcome of this round of consultations and agree on the next steps,” the joint statement added.
The discussions were the first high-level public talks for years between the two powers.
Turkey has been striving to mend fences with several US-allied Arab states but Egypt has so far responded cautiously to Turkish overtures.
(With Reuters)


Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister
Updated 06 May 2021

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister

Qatar’s attorney general orders arrest of finance minister
  • The reports consisted of damage to public funds, abuse of public office, and abuse of power

LONDON: Qatar’s Public Prosecutor ordered the arrest of Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al-Emadi over reports of crime related to holding public office, Qatar News Agency reported on Thursday.
“After reviewing documents, and their attached reports, the Attorney General ordered the arrest of the Minister of Finance Ali Sharif Al-Emadi to investigate what was mentioned in the reports of crimes related to practicing public office,” the statement said.
The reports consisted of damage to public funds, abuse of public office, and abuse of power.
The Public Prosecutor ordered wide investigations into the crimes raised in the submitted reports.


UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank
Updated 06 May 2021

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank

UN urges Israel to stop demolitions and evacuations in Sheikh Jarrah in West Bank
  • UN says eviction of Palestine refugee families in other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are ‘very worrying’
  • Wennesland says ‘deeply concerned’ by surge in tensions and violence in occupied West Bank since start of Ramadan

LONDON: The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process urged Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law.
“The latest developments related to the eviction of Palestine refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are also very worrying,” Tor Wennesland said in a statement on Thursday.
Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flared over a controversial land rights case.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City on land claimed by Jews.
He also said he was “deeply concerned” by the surge in tensions and violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the start of the Muslim month of Ramadan.
“In the past few days alone, two Palestinians, including a woman and a child, were killed in separate incidents, by Israeli security forces (ISF) in the context of clashes or attacks,” said Wennesland.
He also said an Israeli was killed by a Palestinian in a drive-by shooting, and several others were injured.
"I reiterate that ISF must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” he added.
Last month, anti-Arab Israeli extremists, emboldened by the election of their allies to parliament, began a march calling for violence against Arabs.
The move raised tensions, prompting cross-border attacks from Gaza and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
Wennesland said perpetrators of violence on all sides must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.
“I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to stand firmly against violence, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric,” he said, adding “if unaddressed, the situation could spiral out of control.”


Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group
Updated 06 May 2021

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group
  • A military court indicted Juana Ruiz Sánchez on Israeli terrorism-financing offenses and other charges
  • Israel, US, Canada and European Union regard the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine a terrorist organization

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Thursday charged a Spanish woman under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, accusing her of funneling large sums of donations from European governments to a banned Palestinian militant group.
Juana Ruiz Sánchez was charged in a West Bank military court. Her indictment was the culmination of a more than year-long investigation into financing for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The group is regarded by Israel, the United States, Canada, and European Union as a terrorist organization.
Ruiz, a Spanish citizen and West Bank resident, has worked for Health Work Committees, a Palestinian non-governmental organization that provides medical services in the territory.
She was indicted on Israeli terrorism-financing offenses and other charges. The Palestinian NGO’s senior accountant, former accountant and former purchasing department manager were expected to be charged with similar offenses in the coming days, according to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency.
Ruiz, 62, had been held by Israeli authorities without charge since her arrest at her home near Bethlehem on April 13. Spanish authorities have provided her with consular assistance and Spain’s deputy consul general has accompanied her during court hearings, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
“We will continue following this case closely, insisting and working together with the Israeli authorities,” it said.
The PFLP is a Palestinian Leninist-Marxist militant group that opposes the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It staged a number of airline hijackings in the 1970s and numerous attacks on Israeli civilians, including the 2001 assassination of then-tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi. It is part of the PLO, the main Palestinian national movement.
The Shin Bet began investigating the PFLP’s finances following an August 2019 attack by the militant group in the West Bank that killed a 17-year-old girl and wounded her brother and father, an Israeli official said.
The investigation found at least seven Palestinian charities had funneled tens of millions of euros donated by European governments and organizations for humanitarian purposes to PFLP coffers.
The Israeli official said the probe found that the NGO, along with other aid organizations, including the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Addameer, “act under PFLP leadership and in accordance with the organization’s directives, as a cover for promoting the PFLP’s activities and funding.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The Health Works Committees did not respond to requests for comment.
Although the PFLP is one of the smaller Palestinian militant groups operating in the occupied West Bank, its cash pipeline from Europe has “developed considerably in the past decade,” the official said. “European governmental money helped build up this organization.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has called on European governments to step up oversight of donations to Palestinian organizations to ensure they don’t wind up funding groups outlawed by the EU.
The European Union’s diplomatic mission in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A petition calling on Israel to free Ruiz and the other detainees’ was signed by nearly 6,000 individuals and organizations in Spain, saying the aid group was attacked by Israel “in a policy of repression, weakening and dismantling of civil society organizations of Palestine.”