Refugees and IDPs, Who Now Comprise Half the Syrian Population, Will Be Unable to Safely Return to Syria Until It Achieves a Political Transition Towards Democracy
Displaced children in a camp in Rajo town, Aleppo, following a blizzard that hit the area – January 19, 2022 | Photo by Muhammad Nour
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today issued its report entitled ‘On World Refugee Day: Ongoing Atrocious Violations in Syria Are the Main Reason for Generating More Refugees’, stressing that refugees and IDPs, who now comprise half the Syrian population, will be unable to safely return to Syria until it achieves a political transition towards democracy.
The nine-page report provides the record of the most notable violations as documented in the SNHR’s database, with the percentages of their distribution given according to the perpetrators of violations, with SNHR documenting the deaths of 228,893 civilians, including 29,791 children and 16,252 women (adult female), in Syria at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, between March 2011 and June 2022. The report notes that the Syrian regime is by far the most prolific killer of civilians in Syria, accounting for nearly 88% of the total death toll, followed by Russian forces who are responsible for nearly 3%, meaning that the Syrian regime and affiliated Iranian militias, together with the Russian regime, are jointly responsible for the deaths of nearly 91% of the civilians killed since the start of the popular uprising in March 2011.
The report reveals that at least 14,685 individuals, including 181 children and 94 women (adult female), have been killed to date under torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria. Regarding arbitrary arrest/detention or enforced disappearance, the report notes that at least 151,462 individuals, including 5,093 children and 9,774 women (adult female), are still under arrest/detained or forcibly disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, having been arrested between March 2011 and June 2022.
The report stresses that the atrocious violations are still ongoing in Syria, committed by various parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, adding that these primary violations have been the direct cause of the forced displacement of millions of Syrians. As a result of all this, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that nearly 13.4 million Syrians are now either IDPs or refugees, including nearly 6.7 million IDPs, some of whom have been displaced more than once, and nearly 6.6 million refugees, the vast majority of whom are in neighboring countries.
The report notes that some of the violations committed against the people of Syria have affected a number of the returning refugees, despite the very small number of refugees returning compared to the total number of Syrian refugees now scattered around the world. The report further notes that the harsh conditions in the countries of asylum, primarily neighboring countries, have forced some Syrian refugees to return to unsafe areas under the Syrian regime’s control.
As the report further reveals, some of the returning refugees have been subjected to many types of violations following their return, most notably arbitrary arrest and the accompanying violations which inevitably follow this, namely torture, followed by enforced disappearance. Since the beginning of 2014 up to June 2022, SNHR has documented at least 3,057 cases of arbitrary arrest, including of 244 children and 203 women (adult female), of refugees who returned from countries of asylum or residence to their areas of residence in Syria (with the vast majority of these returning from Lebanon). All those detained were arbitrarily arrested by Syrian regime forces. The Syrian regime subsequently released 1,874 of these detainees, while 1,183 of those arrested remained in detention, with 813 of them classified as forcibly disappeared. The report also records at least 72 cases of sexual violence against returning refugees during the same period.
The report points out that although some countries that wish to return Syrian refugees are attempting to justify their position by citing the ‘presidential amnesty’ recently issued by the Syrian regime, the documentation process carried out by the SNHR has confirmed that only about 539 people have been released from the regime’s various civil and military prisons and security branches in the Syrian governorates, including 61 women and 16 people who were children at the time of their arrest, between May 1, 2022, and June 13, 2022. The SNHR also confirms that the Syrian regime is still detaining some 132,000 other people and has launched new waves of arbitrary arrests since issuing the amnesty decree, detaining a further 57 Syrian citizens.
The report also stresses that the attempts by a number of European countries to deport refugees constitute a violation of international law; in this context comes the British government’s attempt to transfer a group of refugees, including Syrian refugees, to Rwanda. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has confirmed that Rwanda is an unsafe country whose own citizens and other residents suffer from serious human rights violations, which the British government itself has criticized. The report adds that no government has the right to assess the situation in Syria and then, based on this assessment, take decisions to deport the Syrian refugees on its territory to Syria.
The report recommends that the governments of countries sheltering Syrian refugees should stop their constant threats of deportation to Syria, because these constitute an additional source of psychological anxiety, a threat to refugees’ financial stability, and disrupt their social integration processes. The report also recommends that the UNHCR should take clear, repeated, and public positions in responding to governments that constantly threaten and manipulate refugees in accordance with domestic political interests.
The report also provides several other additional recommendations.