SACD Newsletter

September 2022

New SACD briefing details deep concerns over UNHCR’s approach to return in Syria

The reality in Syria is such that despite the dire conditions Syrians are suffering in displacement, whether internally or in some of the host countries, they are still unwilling to return except for small numbers of those who are forced to do so for various reasons. This is primarily due to the fact that the conditions which caused the displacements are still in place and the Syrian regime continues to repress Syrians in the areas it controls.

SACD research and reports of various other Syrian and international organisations – including SNHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – have systematically documented that the vast majority of protection thresholds are far from being met, painting a dire picture for any refugees or IDPs forced to return before the minimum conditions are in place. In particular, the thresholds “the physical, legal and material safety of refugees and returnees is ensured” and “every individual’s decision to return is informed and genuinely voluntary, without any coercion” are far from being met. SACD has repeatedly called on UNHCR to report publicly on this reality, both to the displaced Syrians so they can make informed decisions about return, but also to international policymakers and donors. To no avail. 

9 years, criminals responsible for chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta have not been held accountable

Nine years after the chemical massacre in Eastern Ghouta, where more than a thousand civilians suffocated due to the poisonous sarin gas, bombed by the Syrian regime. Nine years and so far, the criminals responsible for this massacre have not been held accountable, and there are no mechanisms to prevent the Syrian regime from using lethal weapons. The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) recorded an exclusive interview with lawyer Ibrahim Olabi of Guernica 37, International Justice Chamber to further explain the international mechanisms that can be used to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable. 

SACD, Amnesty, HRW and RPW urge UNHCR Chief Grandi to halt Syria return programme

As UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi begins a visit to Syria, prominent local and international rights groups remind UNHCR that Syria is still not safe for return, and urge UNHCR and other UN agencies to halt programmes that could incentivise premature and unsafe returns.

Daraa is only a microcosm of what the reality for all of Syria is under Syrian regime

The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) warns against the escalations by the Syrian regime forces in Daraa, who is mobilizing around the city of Jasem to launch an attack on it after detaining its young men and blackmailing their families to pay hefty ransoms. Today Daraa stands as a living example of the dubious and empty promises of the Syrian regime, and the utter failure of Russia as a guarantor of peace, any peace in Syria. 

Syrian refugees in Lebanon between deportation and death under torture

The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) expresses extreme concern over Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Sharafeddine’s announcement of a plan for a mass return of refugees to Syria at a rate of 15,000 refugees per month, made during his visit to Damascus.

While we are aware of the political quarrels and lack of clarity within the Lebanese government on the issue of return, we call on Lebanon’s government to include Syrian refugees’ interests and rights in their plans and ensure that Lebanon remains committed to international law on protection of refugees.

Deportation from Denmark threatens Nawras, a 56-year-old Syrian refugee

Deportation from Denmark threatens Nawras, a 56-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs governorate and a Damascus resident who sought refuge in Denmark in 2015. In 2020, the Danish government withdrew temporary protection from him after the government granted him temporary humanitarian residence in Denmark (7/3 A) for only one year. In an exclusive interview with SACD, Nawras is threatened with being kept away from his family and taken to deportation centers. 

Syrians have the right to know the reality in Syria before being asked to go back

A critical component of safe, dignified and voluntary return is access to reliable information about whether it is safe to return. This information helps the displaced understand whether their return conditions have been met, as well as the process involved. In particular, it might help highlight any inconsistencies between the process and their legal rights as refugees and IDPs to return home without fear of harassment or targeting.

A closer examination of one key mechanism used by the regime in dealing with refugees who are considering returning now shows that their sense of being informed about the conditions on the ground is utterly misguided. SACD surveys revealed a potentially dangerous lack of real information from those supposed to be informing them on all aspects of return conditions, including the UNHCR. 

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