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Amnesty 'deeply alarmed' at UK Government attempt to return Syrian activist to Damascus

Amnesty International has declared the attempt to remove a Syrian national to Damascus from the UK, deeply alarming.

In a letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May, Amnesty called on the UK government to desist from the forcible return of Syrian nationals given the significant deterioration in the political and human rights situation in recent months, and the continuing unpredictable nature of events on the ground.

The planned removal was due to take place on 21 October, but was prevented in the High Court, due in part to Amnesty’s intervention in the case. Amnesty provided information about the current human rights crisis in Syria and expressed grave concerns about conditions in the country and fears for the safety of the individual if returned.

As far as Amnesty is aware, no other EU countries are currently returning Syrian asylum seekers to Syria.

Amnesty told the court that people who oppose or are perceived to oppose the government are at risk of persecution or serious harm by the authorities if returned to Syria. Amnesty has evidence that such people are at real risk of arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment as well as unfair trials and that human rights and pro-democracy activists are at particular risk.

Jan Shaw, Amnesty International UK Refugee Programme Director, said:

“Amnesty is deeply alarmed that the UK Border Agency demonstrated its intention to forcibly remove a Syrian national from the UK to Syria given the appalling human rights situation in the country. 

“The UK government has been instrumental in pressing the UN to take action to address the serious abuses being perpetrated in Syria and so it is astonishing that whilst actively acknowledging the scale of such abuses, it would seek to return someone. At best this might be a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, which is unacceptable.

“Had it not been for an eleventh hour intervention, the UK government could have blood on its hands over this case. It must now put an urgent ban on the forcible return of Syrian nationals.”

Amnesty believes a person who has sought, or is suspected of having sought, asylum abroad may also be at real risk of persecution or serious harm at this time. The act of leaving the country to seek asylum is likely to be viewed as a manifestation of opposition to the Syrian government. Syrians seeking political asylum abroad are likely to be perceived to be sympathetic to opposition to the Syrian authorities.  The UK Border Agency recognises, via its Operational Guidance Note, that those who oppose or are perceived to oppose the government may be at risk on return to the country.

Jan Shaw said:

“Countries across Europe and in the neighbouring region have implemented a halt on removals to Syria. It is high time the UK followed suit.”

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