German regions stop sending rejected asylum seekers back to Afghanistan

Germany is starting to question what kind of situation it has been sending desperate Afghan asylum seekers back to. Pictured, refugee camp in Serbia. [Nebojsa Markovic/ Shutterstock]

More and more of Germany’s regions are halting the deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, as the situation in the conflict-torn country worsens. Euractiv Germany reports.

Six of Germany’s 16 Bundesländer have suspended deportations of failed asylum seekers to the Middle Eastern country, according to media reports.

An investigation by the Berliner Morgenpost revealed that authorities in Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate have largely stopped sending people back to Afghanistan.

The newspaper cited a Senate of Bremen spokesperson who said that the body regards the situation in Afghanistan as unsafe. Accordingly, a total halt on repatriations is being considered at the moment.

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Lower Saxony’s leaders want to take a look at an assessment of the situation carried out by Germany’s interior ministry and have also shelved deportations as a result of the as yet “not sufficiently explained security situation”.

Similar steps have been taken in Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate, although the latter has added the proviso that deportations will still apply to convicted criminals and “agitators”. Apart from Thuringia, which is run by a Die Linke-led coalition, all the regions are held by the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

By putting the brakes on deportations, the regions are going against the current of the interior minister’s policy, who has long taken a hard line on asylum and migration.

In October, Thomas de Maizière (CDU) praised the consistency of the newly brokered migration pact with Afghanistan. In December, the first 34 Afghan citizens were returned to Kabul, which de Maizière lauded as “good practice”.

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Current opposition to his plans is largely based on doubts about the security of the country rejected asylum seekers are being returned to. And opposition appears to be increasing.

In addition to regional governments and opposition politicians, Afghan lawmakers are getting in on the act. Former Economy Minister Amin Farhang, who lived in Germany for a while, told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that deportations would ultimately only serve to increase the number of internally displaced persons (IDP).

“Deportations under the current situation would be particularly catastrophic for the younger generation,” he warned.

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Afghanistan’s former foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, told German radio that since 2006 there have been “military conflicts throughout the country” and that “about 40-45% of Afghanistan’s territory is no longer under state control”.

The UN’s Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) shares this assessment of the security situation. According to its annual report, 2016 set a new record for civilian casualties, when 11,500 people lost their lives or were injured in firefights, suicide bombings and airstrikes. This is a 3% rise on 2015’s figure. Nearly a third of the victims were children, according to UN data.

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The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also insisted that the security situation has “significantly deteriorated”. In response to a request from Germany’s interior ministry, the UNHCR said that “whole state of Aghanistan is affected by internal armed conflict” and that the security situation is constantly in flux, meaning it is difficult to distinguish between safe and unsafe areas.

On Saturday (4 February), Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) criticised Schleswig-Holstein for shelving its deportation procedure and withholding federal funding was also mooted by a spokesperson for the Christian Social Union (CSU).