A German court has dismissed the claim of a Syrian asylum seeker who was granted refugee status after he fled to escape military service. The court said the Syrian state is no longer punishing draft evaders.
The Higher Administrative Court (OVG) in North Rhine-Westphalia this week ruled that fleeing military service in Syria is not a reason to be granted refugee status.
The case concerned a Syrian asylum seeker who had completed his military service in Syria but feared being called up a second time. In 2015 he fled to Germany where he was granted subsidiary protection by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). A court in Cologne subsequently granted him refugee status.
The OVG on Monday disagreed with the earlier decision and dismissed the Syrian’s claim. The court said that the military situation in Syria had changed and that draft evaders, especially those who had merely tried to evade military service by fleeing the country, are no longer subject to systematic punishment. It added that draft evaders are not considered political opponents of the state.
In Syria most men between the ages of 18 and 42 are drafted into the military and usually have to serve for a minimum of 18 months.
Ruling contradicts ECJ
Monday’s decision in the German court contradicts a ruling in a separate case by the European Court of Justice in November 2020 which expressed a "strong presumption" that conscientious objectors in Syria were subject to political persecution. The ECJ ruling is in line with the country guidance on Syria published by the European Asylum Support Office.
The EASO Country of Origin Information states that, under the Syrian Military Penal Code, "draft evaders are punished with one to six months imprisonment in peacetime, after which they have to complete their military service in full. In wartime, draft evasion is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and individuals have to complete their military service. In practice, draft evaders are usually sent directly to the military."
The OVG has not permitted further appeal, but a higher court may hear a complaint against the decision.