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Syria: France rejects journalist's asylum claim without explanation

Hussam Hammoud said he did not know why he had been denied a 'humanitarian visa' and feared being returned to Syria from Turkey
Hussam Hammoud during an interview in southern Turkey (Aboud Hamam)
Hussam Hammoud during an interview in southern Turkey (Aboud Hamam)

France has rejected an asylum request by a prominent Syrian journalist who now risks being deported to his homeland from his current location in Turkey.

Hussam Hammoud, who has contributed to Middle East Eye, the Guardian and France 24 among others, was denied a "humanitarian visa" for himself, his wife and two children despite having received threats from multiple sources in both Turkey and Syria.

Hammoud, who has reported from across Syria including his hometown Raqqa - at one point the so-called "capital" of the Islamic State group - told MEE that he had spent days trying to find out information as to why his application was rejected.

'[France] received a lot of Syrian refugees, even one or two months ago - so it's weird to refuse my request while they're receiving others'

- Hussam Hammoud, journalist

"I have no idea why it was rejected because they didn't give any explanation. I tried so much to ask about the reason, me and other people - but they give no answer," he said.

He said he was particularly baffled considering thousands of other Syrian refugees had been accepted by the country, even recently, and as a journalist he was in particular need of asylum.

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"When I was interviewed I was interviewed as a journalist, and when I asked I asked for protection as a journalist - so it's a bit of a special case for a Syrian refugee," he explained.

"They received a lot of Syrian refugees, even one or two months ago - so it's weird to refuse my request while they're receiving others."

He said he was waiting on a reply from the French embassy in Turkey asking for reconsideration. Failing that, he said, he would appeal the decision through a lawyer in Paris.

Increasing threats

The rejection of Hammoud's application comes as the mood in Turkey has increasingly turned against the nearly four million Syrians living in the country.

Pressure at home has seen Ankara promise the return of the Syrians - who do not have official refugee status, but are regarded as "guests" - to their homeland, despite ongoing fighting and repression from both the Syrian government and other armed groups.

In addition, racist attitudes in Turkey have seen Syrian refugees frequently attacked and their businesses burnt.

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Just over the weekend, a 17-year old Syrian was apparently murdered in the southern Turkish province of Hatay. Faris Muhammed al-Ali, who had been just been accepted to study at the Faculty of Medicine in the western province of Balikesir, was set upon by a group of five men and stabbed to death while walking home from work.

Hammoud said such incidents were making him and other Syrians fearful for their safety in Turkey, in addition to the ever-present threat of forced return to their homeland.

"What Turkey is missing right now is a real protection law for the Syrian refugees," he said, pointing out that Syrians had faced deportation over even minor infractions.

MEE contacted the French government for comment but had received no response at the time of publication.

In April, the French press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders described Syria as "the world’s most dangerous country for journalists" with 110 journalists having been killed in the country since March 2011 and 60 currently detained, held hostage or missing.

More than 500,000 people, including over 300,000 civilians, have died since Syria's civil war began in 2011, when President Bashar al-Assad cracked down on protests calling for greater civil liberties and reform in the country.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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