Recommendations ahead of the Brussels V Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region

March 2021

This paper outlines Amnesty International’s key recommendations to the EU and EU member states participating in the Brussels V Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.

Millions of Syrian refugees are unable to return to the country due to ongoing violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. Refugees continue to face mounting challenges and risks in host countries where they sought protection. Refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries continue to be subjected to barriers that hinder access to services and aid, leading many to live in dire conditions. These host states have also forcibly returned Syrian refugees in recent years despite this putting their lives and freedoms at serious risk. Refugees in European countries have also struggled, albeit on a smaller scale, to exercise their right to seek asylum. In recent years, some EU member states have changed their assessment of the risk in certain areas in Syria, leading to a possible removal of some Syrian refugees’ protection status.  For instance, Denmark and Sweden consider that Syrians in areas such as Damascus and its suburbs are not at risk of general violence, and Germany has allowed deportations of Syrians convicted of serious crimes.

Ten years into the conflict, insecurity continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Syria. They continue to suffer from a range of gross human rights violations committed by parties to the conflict with impunity. The Syrian government has restricted access of humanitarian aid organizations and subjected many individuals to arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and enforced disappearance. The Syrian government continues to withhold the fate and whereabouts of tens of thousands of civilians. The threat of renewed air attacks by the Syrian government on civilians in north-west Syria, looms large. The authorities continue to fail in adequately protecting health workers from COVID-19 or providing a robust response to the spread of the disease and transparent and consistent information about the country’s outbreak. Although to a lesser extent, the situation of civilians living in areas under the control of armed groups follow a similar pattern whereby armed opposition groups, arbitrarily detained, abducted, tortured, and disappeared many individuals.