German authorities offered financial assistance to 437 Syrian refugees to return to their country voluntarily in 2018. That’s according to preliminary figures provided by Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, BAMF.
The numbers provided by Germany’s migration office were in response to an inquiry by the Left opposition parliamentary group. The figures are preliminary and final numbers will be provided by the end of March, KNA reports.
The German government insists that "in no way, Syrian nationals are encouraged to return voluntarily." However, financial support is given nonetheless, it said in a statement, adding that it will continue to adhere to this principle. In a convention last November, interior ministers had further agreed upon a complete ban on deportations to Syria.
Return due to failed family reunification
Two weeks ago, US magazine Foreign Policy reported about persecution of Syrian returnees. In one case, a Palestinian refugee from Syria who was living in Germany returned to Syria with financial support after his attempts to reunite with his fiance had failed. Family reunification is only possible for refugee couples who were married before flight. According to reports by a relative, the Palestinian was summoned by secret service agents upon his arrival in Damascus and has not been seen since. In another case, a Palestinian on his way to reunite with his wife in Syria disappeared at the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Left parliamentarian Ulla Jelpke slammed German policies on family reunification as restrictive, saying that refugees were driven into despair. "Many of them have only two options: to continue being separated from their loved ones or to return to their families, and therefore to return to conflict and persecution, risking their lives."
The Green party called for a profound return counseling for every Syrian who wishes to return. "If it turns out the person only wants to go back because family reunification is stalling, the case has to be examined more closely," said Green parliamentarian Franziska Brantner.
No safe return
The International Organization for Migration IOM currently does not support voluntary return to Syria. Civilians in Syria continue to face severe threats, the IOM said in a statement.
The following notice is given on the platform "Returning from Germany", a service website run by Germany's BAMF: "Due to the present difficult security situation in Syria, Arab Republic, voluntary return through IOM's return assistance programmes REAG/GARP and StarthilfePlus are currently not possible. The IOM has a duty of ensuring the safe return of migrants to their country of origin. Currently, this cannot be guaranteed in the case of a return to Syria, Arab Republic."
As of 2019, the German government offers financial assistance to nationals who want to return to Eritrea, Libya or Yemen. So far no requests have been submitted, dpa reports.