Syrian refugee organisations call on INTERPOL to protect them from Red Notice abuse

Press Release

  • INTERPOL’s decision to allow the Syrian government to issue ‘wanted person’ alerts places thousands of refugees in danger.
  • Red Notices are abused by authoritarian regimes to persecute refugees and political dissidents in exile abroad.

Fair Trials and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) have expressed strong concerns about INTERPOL’s decision to reinstate the Syrian government’s access to its Information System. By allowing Syrian authorities to issue Red Notices, thousands of refugees in Europe are in danger. The open letter, co-signed by 19 organisations representing Syrian refugees, calls on INTERPOL to ensure that robust procedures are put in place to guarantee their safety.

The letter states: “The Syrian authorities are known to have labelled exiled political dissidents, journalists, and health and humanitarian workers, as ‘terrorists’ and wanted criminals. Thousands have already been tried and sentenced in absentia, and we are concerned that they could now be subject to Red Notices requests or diffusions from Syria.”

Bruno Min, Fair Trials’ Legal and Policy Director (the UK and International), stated:

“There is a very real danger that the Syrian authorities will use Red Notices to try to target, arrest and extradite refugees. It has happened before, and it will happen again unless INTERPOL commits to improving its procedures. 

Refugees come to Europe seeking protection from persecution. INTERPOL is undermining this protection by handing over its law enforcement tools to the persecutors. There is a distinct lack of transparency about how INTERPOL intends to identify refugees and asylum seekers and ensure their safety. INTERPOL must do better.”

Danny AlBaaj, Advocacy Manager at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, said:

“While there is a general trust in INTERPOL as a professional international organisation, the Syrian government does not enjoy that trust, because of its continued violations of human rights. There are serious concerns that the Syrian government will abuse its membership in INTERPOL, and it is crucial to draw the attention of INTERPOL to such possibilities.”

Although there are rules and procedures to prevent Red Notices from being issued against recognised refugees, there is “very little evidence to show that these mechanisms are effective”, states the letter. Red Notices can also impact a person’s eligibility for international protection. INTERPOL has previously stated that it has processes in place to protect people but provides no clear explanation of how these processes work nor how they have been improved since past abuses. 

The signatories of the open letter urge INTERPOL to ensure that requests from Syria are subject to special scrutiny and to “show that its systems are resilient” to withstand attempts to undermine the safety of refugees in Europe.