Amnesty International has come out with a report saying that a number of Syrian refugees who returned home have either been detained or disappeared. They have also faced torture at the hands of Syrian security forces.
The rights group documented what it said were violations committed by Syrian intelligence officers. The report charts out the journey of 66 returnees, including 13 children between mid-2017 and spring 2021. 5 of the 66 died in Syrian custody after their return, while 17 of them are untraceable, the report titled "You're going to your death" said.
Lebanon and Turkey governments have put increasing pressure on Syrians to return back home. According to the Associated Press, Turkey has forcibly deported many Syrians in the last two years.
Denmark and Sweden have also started revoking the residency permits of some Syrian refugees earlier this year. The countries argue that the Syrian capital, Damascus, and neighboring regions were now safe.
"Any government claiming Syria is now safe is willfully ignoring the horrific reality on the ground, leaving refugees once again fearing for their lives," AP quoted Marie Forestier, a researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International, as saying.
Forestier added the Syrian government continues to commit human rights abuses even as military hostilities have subsided in most parts of the country
The Syrian government and Russia have publicly called on refugees to return home and accused Western countries of discouraging it with claims that Syria is still unsafe.
In its report, Amnesty International urged European governments to immediately halt any practice directly or indirectly forcing people to return home. It also called on neighboring countries Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, who host the bulk of the Syrian refugee population, to protect them from deportation or any other forcible return, in line with their international obligations.
It said Syrian authorities in some cases have targeted returnees to Syria simply for having fled, accusing them of treason or supporting "terrorism."
The Syrian government routinely dismisses accusations of human rights abuses as lies.
Syria's 10-year war has killed about half a million people and forced about 5.6 million to flee abroad as refugees, mostly to neighboring countries.
(With AP inputs)