09/07/2021, 09.59
SYRIA
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Amnesty vs Damascus: Torture and abuse of refugees returned to Syria

A report by the activist group denounces violence against those who have returned to the country. Blame laid at door of nations in the area and Europe because they encourage repatriation. Syria and Russia claim the areas under government control are safe. Violations include rape or other forms of sexual violence, arbitrary or illegal detention, torture and ill-treatment.

 

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Dozens of Syrian refugees, who decided to return to their country of origin in the last four years, have been victims of forced detention, torture and disappearances in mysterious circumstances in the hands of government security forces. This is what emerges in a report published today by the activists of Amnesty International, according to whom it would be proof that "a return to the homeland" for those who once fled "is still not safe". 

In a report entitled “You’re going to your death," the group compiled what it calls "violations" committed by Damascus intelligence against 66 returning refugees, including 13 children, between mid-2017 and the spring of 2021. This list also includes five cases of detainees who died in police custody and 17 other people whose fate remains shrouded in mystery. 

The authors also challenge claims by some states that parts of Syria are now safe and allow for the repatriation of refugees. Denmark, Sweden and Turkey are named for having loosened assylum and refugee support, encouraging, in various ways, the return of those who have fled. Criticism is also directed at Lebanon and Jordan, among the nations hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees in relation to their population. 

In Lebanon and Turkey, refugees suffer discrimination by local governments and live in dramatic conditions. Ankara has deported numerous refugees in the last two years, with increasingly frequent expulsions confirming a hostile climate with respect to a past of welcoming in the name of the common Muslim root promoted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The Syrian government and its main ally, Russia, claim that the country is now safe - at least in the areas controlled by Damascus - and launch repeated calls for the return of refugees, accusing the West of disincentivizing repatriation with "fake news". Amnesty International calls on Europe to stop all practices, direct or indirect, that encourage a return to Syria and asks Beirut, Ankara and Amman to prevent deportations. 

The report documents serious violations against refugees who have returned from Lebanon, Rukban (an informal refugee camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border), France, Germany, Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. It is based on interviews collected among dozens of Syrians, including refugees and their families and friends, along with lawyers, humanitarian workers and human rights experts. In some cases, violations include rape or other forms of sexual violence, arbitrary or unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment.

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