Geneva - The Nov. 23 ruling by the German High Administrative Court that Syrian asylum seekers should be offered only "subsidiary protection" exposes these already vulnerable individuals to even more uncertainty, warns the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
Under the 1951 UN convention, a person who is outside of the country of his or her nationality due to a well-founded fear of persecution is entitled to refugee status. Syrians had received this protection in Germany since fall 2015. However, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees recently changed its policy, awarding them only subsidiary protection, a designation that entitles Syrians to stay in the country one year (unless extended) and prolongs family reunification. In allowing the decision to stand, the judge from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein ruled there is no evidence that Syrians risk individual persecution upon return to their home country.
“ Depriving Syrians of refugee status is particularly worrying given the deteriorating situation in their country” says Iman AbuZueiter, refugee researcher for Euro-Med Monitor. “Syria is currently wracked by intensive violence and insecurity—and all projections indicate these horrific conditions will increase in the near future.” This, in fact, was the basis on which the German administrative courts decided in February 2012 that most Syrian refugees fulfill the requirements of the 1951 convention and thus are entitled to full refugee status.
Euro-Med Monitor also contests the German court’s conclusion that Syrians would not face persecution upon their return to their country. To the contrary, Syrian refugees are very likely to be mistreated due to factional suspicions regarding their political orientation. In fact, there have been documented cases in which returning Syrians were arrested or forcibly disappeared, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees".
In addition to increased risks for Syrians who return home, those remaining in Germany are forced to live with long-term uncertainty, since family reunification is not directly or unconditionally allowed for persons with subsidiary protection. This has a particularly negative impact on children in need of a stable home environment.
The longer delay in family reunification is equally as devastating. Knowing that family members are in danger is a significant burden on mental and physical health.
Thus, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the German Office for Migration and Refugees to comply with the provisions of the European Parliament’s Directive (2011/95/EU), particularly article 23, which affirms the unconditional right to family reunification—even for those with only subsidiary protection.
Euro-Med Monitor also objects to the German government’s decision to re-introduce security checks on its border with Austria, preventing hundreds of asylum seekers from entering the country. Moreover, Syrians’ valuables are being confiscated in some regions of the country; during 2015, more than 1,000 attacks on refugee residential centers were reported.
"Overall, German policy for dealing with Syrians and other asylum seekers and migrants is worthy of praise, compared with other European countries,” says Ihsan Adel, legal advisor for Euro-Med Monitor. “But Germany appears to be regressing. Syrians deserve full refugee status and protection. Euro-Med Monitor calls on German authorities to resist pressure from right-wing elements and maintain a just, compassionate environment for these vulnerable families and individuals seeking refuge from savagery.”