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 It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed,” he added.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.


Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests

Updated 4 min 28 sec ago

Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests

Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests
ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday demanded jail terms for 97 people who joined student protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of a party loyalist as a top university’s rector.
According to Anadolu state news agency, the indictment said the suspects defied a ban on rallies imposed as part of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors are seeking jail terms from six months to three years because of the suspects’ non-compliance with a law on “unarmed participation in unlawful rallies and refusal to disperse despite the warnings,” Anadolu said.
No date was given for the first hearing.
The protest movement — the biggest to rattle Erdogan’s rule in years — kicked off when the Turkish leader appointed longstanding ruling party member Melih Bulu as rector of Bogazici University at the start of the year.
The rallies began inside the campus grounds before spreading to the streets of Istanbul and other big cities with the backing of government opponents and supporters of broader LGBT rights.
The indictment specifically refers to a February 1 protest in Istanbul in which several groups defied police warnings and rallied outside the university’s locked gate.
Police roughly rounded up 108 people that day.
Ninety-seven of them were later released and a probe was launched against them by the prosecutor’s office, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors are conducting separate inquiries against the 11 remaining people, one of whom is underage.
The student demonstrations had echoes of 2013 protests that sprang up against plans to demolish an Istanbul park before spreading nationally and posing the first big political dilemma for Erdogan.
He has compared student protesters to “terrorists” and the rector at the root of the demonstrations has refused to give in to demands to step down.

Much more work needed in Iran nuclear talks despite progress, EU says

Police stand outside a hotel where a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is held in Vienna, Austria, April 20, 2021. (Reuters)
Police stand outside a hotel where a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is held in Vienna, Austria, April 20, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 1 min 24 sec ago

Much more work needed in Iran nuclear talks despite progress, EU says

Police stand outside a hotel where a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is held in Vienna, Austria, April 20, 2021. (Reuters)

VIENNA: Iran, the US and world powers need to do a lot more to reach a deal to save the 2015 nuclear accord, the EU's political director chairing talks in Vienna said on Tuesday.

"Progress made over the last two weeks," European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora said on Twitter.

"But much more hard work needed. Third expert group was created to address sequencing issues," he said.

More to follow...


Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
Updated 20 April 2021

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
  • Five dissidents arrested last month, with one facing death penalty in Iran
  • Thirty-three deported last year from country formerly seen as safe haven

LONDON: Many Iranian dissidents no longer view Turkey as a safe haven after an increasing number of arrests and deportations in recent months.

Turkey is home to around 67,000 Iranians, with 39,000 claiming refugee status. Millions pass between the two countries each year on account of the visa-free border.

But following a crackdown by Ankara on Turkish dissidents in the last few years, and with trade and security links between the two countries increasing, Iranians too are being targeted.

Last month, Kurdish political activist Afshin Sohrabzadeh was detained and charged with being a “threat to national security” after visiting a police station to obtain travel papers.

He has since been moved to a repatriation center, and his lawyer Mahmut Kacan says his status as a refugee has been ignored.

“I have represented many refugees and asylum seekers from Iran, and their treatment is often terrible,” Kacan said.

Tehran and Ankara “have agreements to exchange people who are a political or security threat, especially anyone who is accused of links to Kurdish groups,” he added. 

“There is supposed to be rule of law in Turkey but the truth is, increasingly, Iranians can be deported without warning or following due process.”

Sohrabzadeh faces the death penalty if deported. He previously spent seven years in solitary confinement in Iran, where he says he was tortured, before escaping to Turkey in 2016, where he was joined by his family.

His wife Fereshteh Kangavari told The Guardian that men, believed to be Iranian agents, had constantly harassed the family in Turkey, and that they had been forced to move home multiple times.

“We lived a quiet life in Turkey, we had no desire to draw attention to ourselves, and we were careful to follow the rules of our host country,” she said.

“All we want is a normal life in a safe place. I am desperately afraid for my husband and the future for us and our son,” she added.

“I don’t feel safe here. It’s a constant feeling of insecurity. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I might get arrested. The way I feel about Turkey has changed.”

Four other Iranian asylum seekers were arrested on the same day as Sohrabzadeh in the Turkish city of Denizli.

Lily Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi, Ismail Fattahi and Mohammad Pourakbari were allegedly involved in a protest against Turkey’s withdrawal from an international treaty on violence against women.

“No third country has been determined in the deportation decision, and the judicial proceedings continue,” said the quartet’s lawyer Buse Bergamali.

“Regardless of the country, deportation would be unlawful. It is also unlawful that my clients stay in the removal center during this whole process.”

It is thought that 33 Iranians were deported from Turkey last year, with two subsequently sentenced to death for their roles in protests against the government in 2019.

At least four Iranians, meanwhile, have been kidnapped or killed by Iranian agents in Turkey since 2017.

In 2018, Turkey took over the registration of refugees and asylum seekers in its territory from the UN, after which deportation statistics were removed from government websites.

A senior Turkish official told The Guardian that his country “does not intend to deport any of the aforementioned individuals to Iran. It is possible, however, for them to be sent to a third country.” The official declined to mention the name of any third country involved.


‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
Updated 20 April 2021

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
  • When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the Commonwealth forces’ cemetery in Mosul was damaged
  • There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century

LONDON: “Gentle steps forward” have been taken in recovering sites destroyed during Daesh’s occupation of Mosul, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has said.

Iraq’s second-largest city endured three years of Daesh control, with much of it laid to waste. Many buildings and key infrastructure were destroyed, including a significant war-graves site.

When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the cemetery was damaged.

The CWGC manages the site, where members of the armed forces of Commonwealth nations have been laid to rest.

The commission reported that the remains of those buried were not disturbed, but the iconic Cross of Sacrifice and the surrounding memorials were destroyed, with a pocket of external walls surviving.

British diplomats and other key stakeholders have been working with the CWGC to restore the site.

Preparatory moves before the commencing of recovery work has included representatives from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) sweeping the grounds to remove any ordnance left behind by the site’s previous combatant occupants.

Teams will now survey the site and review how the cemetery can be secured for the full recovery work.

“The CWGC has noted that local conditions are now stabilizing in Mosul, and it has a window of opportunity to re-establish the site,” a CWGC spokesperson told Sky News.

“In addition, it has the excellent support of the UK Consul, UNMAS, and the opportunity to engage a local workforce to assist with the gradual clearance and rehabilitation,” the spokesperson added.

“The commission has rebuilt cemeteries before after serious damage caused by conflict — it is within the CWGC’s capability to do so.”

Iraq saw more than 54,000 Commonwealth war casualties. The commission has not sent a working party to the country since 2006 due to safety concerns. With the violence in Iraq increasing, CWGC cemeteries have been neglected.

When Daesh started its occupation of Mosul, the site was already in a precarious state. With the city now liberated, hope has returned that its graves can receive the restoration they desperately need.

There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century.


Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
Updated 20 April 2021

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
  • Flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March

MOSCOW: Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would soon announce the resumption of charter flights to Egypt, the Interfax news agency reported.
The head of Egypt’s civil aviation authority told Reuters in February that direct flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March after being suspended for more than five years.