Denmark Sacrificing the Future of 70 Syrian Children — Save the Children

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (April 21, 2021)—Save the Children is deeply concerned to discover that 70 refugee children are at risk of being returned to Syria by the Danish authorities, which would be detrimental to their physical and mental safety.

Hundreds of Syrian refugees from the Damascus region are at risk of losing their Danish residency permits, which puts them at risk of being sent back to Syria—a country steeped in conflict for ten years. Save the Children can confirm that some 70 children have been rejected in the first stage of the process, and are now waiting for a second, final decision.

If their rejections are confirmed, families and their children will have to either collaborate with Danish authorities about returning to Syria, or be placed in departure centers indefinitely.

Recently, Save the Children spoke to over 1,900 children and caregivers in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the Netherlands, and found that the vast majority of children do not see a future in Syria after ten years of war. [1]

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, also recently said that although fighting has stopped in certain areas, the country still remains too unsafe for refugees to return. [2]

Save the Children’s Anne Margrethe Rasmussen, Area Representative for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Save the Children in Denmark, said:

“Children are at risk of having to return to a country they hardly remember, a country that is still not safe. Children, who have no responsibility for the devastating conflict in Syria, are yet again victims of a crisis created by adults. Many of them will have never known a peaceful Syria, which has been steeped in conflict for more than ten years now.

“Any return to Syria has to be dignified, informed, voluntary and safe. This cannot happen before the conflict is over and without guarantees for people returning.

“Placing children in departure centers to push their parents to leave the country will deeply impact their mental wellbeing and development. Syrian children have the right to feel safe and they should not live in fear of being forced to flee again.” 

Save the Children’s Syria Response Director Sonia Khush said:

“You simply cannot say that any part of Syria is safe. Such an argument is not in line with international standards and does not reflect the reality on the ground. It fails to take into account the risks of arbitrary arrests and flare-ups of violence. It ignores the fact that many houses are destroyed, access to education is limited at best and the health system is overwhelmed.

“Denmark was the first country to sign up to the Refugee Convention in 1951. It is now setting a dangerous precedent by effectively taking the first step to send people back to a place that is far from safe.

“Most Syrian children do not even see a future in the country. Our recent research found that 86 percent of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the Netherlands do not want to return to the country of their parents. Even among those surveyed within Syria, one in three said they would rather be living elsewhere.  Put simply, Syria is not ready for refugees to return and most children don’t want to be there. The Danish authorities should listen to them.”

[1] — Anywhere But Syria: 10 Years of War 

[2] — International Protection Considerations with regard to people fleeing the Syrian Arab Republic, Update VI

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