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Returning Syrian refugees face danger, UN report says

22 February 20240 comments

Syrians returning to their homeland face torture, abduction and other human rights violations refugees who fled the war are facing gross human rights violations, a new United Nations report says.

Twelve years after the conflict in Syria began, more than five million refugees are still living in neighbouring countries where they face increasing pressure to return home, with some being deported.

In a briefing, UN human rights official Elizabeth Throssell said: “The report paints an alarming picture of the suffering of returnees, in particular women amid the increasing number of deportations of Syrians from other countries”.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the overall conditions in Syria do not permit safe, dignified and sustainable returns of Syrian refugees to their home country,” she said.

The report, by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which runs to 35-pages, points out the violations were carried out by people close to the government, rebel militias and other armed groups.

The report includes interviews with women who said they were harassed and pressured to perform sexual favours to security officials and authorities in order to obtain civil documents.

It highlighted the risks returnees face of being detained and also that women who had been detained were often stigmatised afterwards based on the assumption they had been raped or sexually abused, even if this had not occurred.

“In some cases, they are even divorced by their husbands and disowned by their own families,” the report said.

The report also highlights an worsening economic situation, saying “people nowadays are more afraid of not having food than of bombs”.

It says many Syrians lack economic access to basic goods and services, including food, shelter and healthcare.

The Syrian civil war began in 2011, resulting in approximately 6.7 million Syrian refugees.

Since 2016, the UNHCR has monitored the return of over 388,679 Syrians from neighbouring countries to Syria as of November 30, 2023.

But a large number of returnees have found themselves compelled to leave Syria for a second time, the UN says.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, said the dangers Syrian returnees face raises serious questions about the commitment of neighbouring states to international conventions on human rights and non-refoulement.”