Feb 16, 2006

Assyria: Concern in Holland Over Return of Assyrian Refugees to Syria

The Assyrian Syriac-Orthodox community in Holland is concerned about the way the refugees are treated by the Syrian authorities after they return to Syria. The rights of the minority groups in Syria are barely regulated

Courtesy of the Nederlands Dagblad

Within the Syriac-Orthodox community of the Netherlands there is a great concern rising, about the government's intention to deport a few hundred refugees to Syria. High representatives from the Syrian authority are currently working in the Netherlands to make this possible.

"There is great fear within our community", says the Assyrian politician, Ms. Attiya Gamri, a member of provencal parliament in Holland representing the political party PvdA in the province of Overijssel. According to Ms. Gamri there may be as many as 250 to 300 people who may be deported to Syria in the near future.

The Syrian authorities had shown no interest in the welfare of these refugees until now. Mr. Klaas Harink, the director of the refugee organization in the Province of Fiesland says: "The cooperation which they apparently are giving now, is remarkable." He confirms that there are talks with high representatives of the Syrian authorities, and the refugees whose cases have been declined are now being summoned to take part in these talks.

"Negotiations with countries to accept such refugees is not unusual", says Mr. E.J.P. Cats, an attorney from the Dutch town of Emmen. Mr. Cats is currently working on a few cases of the Syrian refugees. "But in this case I'm skeptical," explains Mr. Cats. He continues: "Syria doesn't have a good reputation."

According to Mr. Cats the information obtained from the asylum requesters should not come into the hands of the Syrian authorities. "These people have asked the Dutch government for protection, even though their asylum request is denied, these people still need protection." Cats is wondering how the IND (Immigration and naturalization Service) can guarantee the safety of these Syrian refugees.

The Assyrian Syriac-Orthodox community in Holland is equally concerned about the way the refugees are treated by the Syrian authorities after they return to Syria. Although the talks about the return to Syria from the Netherlands have raised concern for many Assyrian refugees in Holland, most refugees are afraid for the reaction from the Syrian authorities to their asylum requests in the Netherlands. Even if the IND does not provide any information about the asylum requests, the asylum seekers are afraid that the Syrian authorities may become aware of the refugees identities.

Ms Attiya Gamri explains: "It's to simple to say that the Syrian authorities don't know the reason for this".

Every refugees that returns to Syria is held by the authorities to verify their identity, confirms the Dutch Ministry for foreign affairs.

According to Ms Attiya Gamri a percentage of the people being kept by the Syrian authorities in this way are even tortured. "And they are at risk of disappearance in the jails. I don't question the fact that the returning refugees will be seen as traitor. In Syria opposition against president Assad and the political system isn't tolerated."

The rights of the minority groups in Syria are barely regulated, so confirms the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Christians are not prosecuted for their religion, yet their ethnic background does make their position precarious. The Syrian authorities have in the past repressed every form of deviating political activities.

But the Dutch ministry for Foreign Affairs sees no objection for the refused asylum seekers to return to Syria, although there is much concern about their general human rights situation. Often detainees and prisoners are tortured, the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs states. But there is no proof of cases where the asylum requests have caused problems for the seekers in the past.


Source: Zinda Magazine