A protest in Copenhagen against the tightening of refugee policies (Image: EPA/Soeren Bidstrup)

Every morning, Ozlem Cekic, a former Danish politician from the Socialist People’s Party, bikes past the parliament building in Copenhagen. She is on her way to work at Bridge Builders, a nongovernmental organization she founded. Christiansborg Palace, the parliament house, is the heart of Danish democracy in the center of the capital. But in recent weeks, protesters have been occupying the  square outside the palace.

They are enraged because several Syrian refugees have been ordered to go back home by the Danish government. This is possible because of a law enacted in 2015 with a large majority that distinguishes between political refugees and refugees who gained their status because of a general state of war in their home country. “When I biked past the palace this morning, someone was holding a sign saying: Syria isn’t safe,” said Cekic, who left parliament in 2015. “It’s absurd that Denmark … is discussing whether Syria is safe or not—a country that has been in a civil war for years now.”

In March, the Danish immigration office concluded that the Greater Damascus area is safe enough for some refugees to return. Since 2019, at least 254 people have already lost their asylum status and are either in an appeals process or have been told to leave the country. According to the Danish newspaper Politiken, around 500 Syrian refugees could be asked to return to Syria. By May, at least 39 people had received a final rejection, according to BBC. Political refugees are exempt, but anyone from the greater Damascus area who gained their status because of the general state of war is in danger of losing it.