May 28, 2024

New figures show Syria is not safe for returning refugees

27 May 2024

For immediate release

New figures show Syria is not safe for returning refugees

  • Do not force Syrians back to likely detention and torture Syrian human rights group, urges EU leaders.
  • 279 people, including children, detained and six people killed under torture in regime detention after returning to Syria over past 18 months.

The systematic and arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians continues in Syria, where detainees are routinely subjected to torture and inhumane conditions, human rights group The Syria Campaign warns as the EU hosts the 8th Syria conference in Brussels, today.

New figures reveal that 279 refugees returning to Syria from countries of asylum have been subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention by Syrian regime forces after being forced back to the country or choosing to go home between January 2022 and June 2024, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

As many as 168 individuals, including six children and nine women, were forcibly repatriated from Lebanon. Most were arrested by the Syrian regime’s Military Security Intelligence branch in al-Masna border area between April 2023 and June 2024.

Following the forced return of 300 Syrian refugees from Lebanon this month, and a joint statement from eight countries — Austria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland — on 17 May pointing to a review of their policies on refugee return, fears across the EU and neighboring countries are rising.

Ranim Ahmed of The Syria Campaign said:
“Nowhere in Syria is safe from possible arrest, detention and torture. For those who have been living in Europe or neighboring countries, the risk is even greater. But instead, the EU is making multi-million euro deals with Turkey and Lebanon to keep refugees from coming to Europe without any guarantees for their safety. These reckless policies have been emboldening neighboring countries, where xenophobia has been thriving, to use forced deportations to rid them of refugees.

“EU leaders know very well that Assad kills and tortures civilians. In June 2023, the Netherlands and Canada filed a case against Syria for violation of the international Convention Against Torture at the International Court of Justice. Recent hints by some EU states that Syria might be safe for refugees to return to is absurd in the face of such stark evidence to the contrary. Lebanon’s forced returns are putting people in direct danger.

“People in southern Syria have been protesting for months against injustice, corruption and lack of basic services, calling to overthrow Assad and his regime. They continue to risk their lives to let the world know that a dignified life under Assad isn’t possible.

“Ahead of the EU elections next month, voters should work to disempower those anti-immigration voices and refrain from providing a mandate at the ballot box. The EU must not turn its back on millions of refugees living in fear in their asylum countries and do everything they can to protect them.”

Since the start of 2014, SNHR has documented 3,532 cases of arbitrary arrest or detention by Syrian regime forces of refugees returning to Syria, including 251 children. Of these, 1,383 remain in detention, including 969 whose whereabouts are unknown.

For an interview with those who fear deportation or for more information contact: [email protected] For more information from the Syrian Network for Human Rights visit: