Denmark: Refugee grandmother told to return to Syria | Refugee News

Copenhagen, Denmark – Rihab Kassem is a retired nurse and a grandmother of Syrian and Palestinian descent who arrived in Denmark eight years ago.

She has always lived in Yarmouk, an unofficial camp in Damascus, serving the Palestine refugee community in Syria.

Her original plan was to visit her son Waled, who has lived in Denmark since 1996 and has long been a citizen of this Scandinavian country.

But after she arrived, as the Syrian war intensified, her refugee camp was violently attacked.

She applied for asylum, and in January 2014, the Danish authorities gave her a residence permit valid for five years. Then it was extended for another two years. Later, she was granted temporary protection status.

Her new life grew as the life she knew in Syria passed away. She had a great time in Europe with her children and grandchildren.

But at the beginning of this year, as the Danish government Made a controversial decision In order to declare that parts of Syria are safe enough to return, her residency application was rejected and she was asked to be interviewed.

The 66-year-old Kasim is nervous but hopeful.

However, two months later, she was told that her permit had been revoked because the Danish government believed that the security situation in the Syrian capital Damascus and surrounding areas had improved and she could go home again.

“Where to go back? I have no one in Syria, nothing,” she told Al Jazeera. “My family lives in Denmark and I am the only person asked to leave.

“We are not beggars here, we work, we work hard, we go to school, we pay taxes, this is happening to us… I can’t understand.”

Qasim has difficulty moving and breathing.

She said that her lungs operate at 35% of the capacity, which is the result of the Syrian army’s coordinated attack using toxic gases.

She wants to receive treatment in Denmark, but because her residence permit has been revoked, she is no longer entitled to government support or national health care.

“I have been a nurse for three years and my dream is to make enough money so that I can build a hospital near me (in Syria),” she said.

She saved enough money to buy a piece of land and a house, ready to transform it into a hospital. But during the renovation, the house was blown up.

“Suddenly there was nothing. Nothing,” she said.

The official letter rejecting her residency application listed three reasons.

One is that her children are all grown-ups and no longer depend on her. Secondly, the letter stated that the Danish government’s report believed that Damascus was safe and claimed that her life would not be threatened. Finally, although the authorities admitted that she had health problems, they said that these problems were not serious enough to justify her stay in Denmark.

“The pressure I am under is incomprehensible,” she said. “The rules are constantly changing and the government is not fulfilling their contract.”

When Al Jazeera contacted the Danish Immigration Service for a response, a news official shared a document explaining why Qasim’s status was revoked.

Rihab rejected all requests from the government and has been protest Oppose the apparent effort to expel refugees with several others before the Danish Parliament.

She intends to continue sitting until she receives a more specific answer or is forced to leave.

Once, she went on a hunger strike for three days.

After the government widely criticized Damascus as being safe, hundreds of Syrians in Denmark were in the same dangerous situation.

It is the first European country to make such a statement.

But because Denmark has no diplomatic relations with Syria — it does not recognize President Bashar Assad’s government — refugees cannot be forced to return.

Instead, they are likely to be sent to deportation camps in Denmark-or “departure centers”.

Violeta Ligrayen Yañez, a freedom promoter and educator who has been working with the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, said: “They have a state of’tolerated’: expelled Out of the political and social system, but was not deported.”

Most people will refuse to go. Some people will try to seek asylum elsewhere.

“they [Danish authorities] There are two options: either send me to the deportation camp or send me to the hospital, but I will not leave,” Qassim said.

“Treat us like humans, we deserve to be treated as humans. We have seen so much suffering in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and even when we come to Denmark-which is said to be a free country-this is happening in On us… so my main message is that I want to be treated as one person. Syria is not safe.”

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About the Author: Agnes Zang