The Danish Refugee Appeals Board deemed it safe for Syrian refugees to return to the coastal Latakia province in the western part of the country, Reuters reported on Friday.
Calling Denmark’s decision “concerning”, a UN Refugee Agency spokeswoman said the agency did not consider improvements in the security situation in Syria to be enough “to justify ending international protection for any group of refugees”, Reuters added.
The decision came after the Danish Immigration Service announced both Tartous and Latakia provinces in Syria as safe for refugees’ returns, despite reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that returning Syrians face grave human rights abuses and persecution at the hands of the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and kidnappings.
The designation of Latakia and Tartous as safe came just weeks after the 6 February twin earthquakes centred in Turkey’s south. In Latakia, which is 70 kilometres away from Turkey’s Hatay province, 806 people were killed and more than 15,000 buildings were damaged.