DENMARK BECOMES FIRST EU COUNTRY TO REVOKE RESIDENCY PERMITS FOR SOME SYRIANS
Denmark has become the first European country to deny the renewal of residency permits for Syrian refugees, arguing that some parts of Syria are safe enough to return to. The renewal of temporary residency permits has been denied to at least 189 Syrians because of a report that states Syria’s security has “improved significantly.” In addition to the 189 denied, 500 people from Damascus and surrounding cities are having their permits re-evaluated. The decision has garnered criticism from the UN and other international human rights groups. However, Denmark’s immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye told Agency France-Presse that the “government’s policy is working, and I won’t back down, it won’t happen. We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary and that the permit can be revoked if the need for protection ceases to exist.” The Danish Refugee Council released a counterstatement saying the move was unnecessary, as Denmark does not have diplomatic relations with Syria, and refugees cannot be deported directly back to Syria. Some of the refugees who have had renewals denied have been placed in detention centres, a move the Refugee Council deemed as “undignified treatment.” The Council also maintains that an absence of fighting in some areas does not mean the country is safe. Issues of ongoing concern in Syria include the lack of rebuilding, the inconsistency in availability of water and electricity, and the deterioration of the Syrian currency, all of which threaten the livelihood of people in the country. The new policy is disproportionately affecting women and the elderly – Syrian men are often exempt due to the risks they face of being drafted into the military if they return to Syria. The Danish government offers a payment of €25,500 per person for voluntarily returning to Syria, however, in 2020 only 137 of the 35,000 Syrian refugees in Denmark accepted the offer.
From a Christian perspective, the window of opportunity to reach Syrians outside of Syria with the Gospel could be closing, if other countries follow Denmark’s change in policy. Throughout the last decade of war in Syria, there were Christians who decided to stay in their home country, despite the circumstances. The Church was a source of provision and hope for those who did not flee the conflict. After 10 years of war, the possibility of returning to Syria is more likely than ever. The remnant of believers in Syria has remained steadfast, despite the persecution and violence, and have continued to work on preserving the Christian community. There is anecdotal evidence of several Syrians coming to faith in Christ in Denmark, but total numbers are unknown. If such believers return to their home country, they could add to the number of Christians in Syria, however, it is unlikely that they will return to stable conditions. While the persecution of Christians in Syria remains a reality in some areas, and pockets of the country are still volatile, returning refugees would also have to contend with the harsh living conditions brought about by the economic impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic, as well as the sanctions against the Syrian government. The global community of believers must continue to uplift and support the Syrian Church so that they in turn will be able to receive and support returning refugees (Christian and non-Christian) as they start to rebuild their lives and their devastated country.
Please pray with us for the following:
- For Denmark’s leaders and other refugee-host countries to be led by the Lord when discussing and writing refugee policy
- For the Lord’s provision and protection for Syrian refugees facing an uncertain future in Denmark
- For the health and growth of the Christian community in Syria; that they will be ready to support and care for returning Syrians (whether they are Christian or not)
Image: AP Photo/POLFOTO/Jens Dresling