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UK Home Office tells Syrian asylum seeker he can safely return home

British authorities 'not satisfied to a reasonable degree' that the Syrian man would face persecution upon his return
An activist from Amnesty International wearing a mask of Home Secretary Priti Patel, ahead of the Nationality and Borders Bill reading, in London, 7 December 2021 (AFP)

The Home Office has told a Syrian asylum seeker that he can return to Syria because it’s safe, despite the risks to his life, in what appears to be the first such case in the UK.

After fleeing the country fearing forced conscription into Bashar al-Assad's army in 2017, he found sanctuary in the UK in May 2020.

Any return to Syria would see him labelled as a draft evader, which could lead to his arrest. 

Yet, the UK, which has until now not returned refugees who opposed President Assad's government, has sent a letter to the asylum seeker saying he would be safe in Syria. 

A Home Office official wrote: “I am not satisfied to a reasonable degree of likelihood that you have a well-founded fear of persecution.”

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The letter, which The Guardian reported on Sunday, continued: “It is not accepted that you will face a risk of persecution or real risk of serious harm on return to the Syrian Arab Republic due to your imputed political opinion as a draft evader.” 

The asylum seeker, who remained anonymous, told The Guardian: “I escaped from Syria in 2017, and I am looking for safety.

“My solicitor is appealing against the Home Office decision and says this is the first Syrian asylum refusal case she has seen. I hope I will not be forced back to Syria. I am so tired of trying to find somewhere that I can be safe.”

A Home Office spokesperson told The Guardian: “All asylum applications are considered on their individual merits on a case-by-case basis and in line with current published policy.”

Since the Syrian war began, more than 6.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee since 2011 and another 6.7 million people remain internally displaced, according to the UN

The Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad claimed last year that Syria was safe for citizens to return during a UN General Assembly, but rights groups say the opposite is true. 

report from Human Rights Watch last year said that refugees should not be returned to Syria.

The report found that those who returned faced human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial killings and kidnapping at the hands of the Syrian government and affiliated militias.