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Germany content to return Afghan asylum seekers to ‘islands of safety’

Global Europe

Germany content to return Afghan asylum seekers to ‘islands of safety’

Nearly 55% of Afghan asylum seekers are rejected by Germany and returned to "safe" areas of the country, especially the capital, Kabul.


More than half of Afghan asylum-seekers have their applications rejected by German authorities and are returned to the Middle-Eastern country. EurActiv’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

In Kabul, more and more Afghans end up stranded, as they return from Germany or other European countries, having failed to secure asylum status. Around 3,500 have come back from Germany alone since last year. The returnees are left with little, even nothing, and have no social ties in the capital, said Omid Nouripour of the German Greens, who regularly travels to Afghanistan.

The tense security situation in the country is not denied by Berlin. However, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) sees “islands of safety” to which people can continue to be returned and he has urged the German regions, the Länder, to do just that.

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In 2015 and 2016, more than 90,000 Afghans applied for asylum in Germany and are still waiting for their applications to be fully processed. More than half, around 55%, will be rejected. Nevertheless, the number of refugees remains high and Afghans are the second largest group after Syrians.

“The mood in Afghanistan is terrible,” said Nouripour and described the security situation as precarious. “There are two cities which are relatively safe, but if we send all the rejected asylum seekers there, it’s not going to stay that way,” he added, suggesting that deporting Afghans is going to do nothing to contribute to the stabilisation of the country and warning that “the Afghan security forces do not have the situation under control”. NATO recently postponed its withdrawal of personnel from the country.

At its Warsaw summit last week, NATO decided that it would be keeping troops in the Hindu Kush in the coming year. Since the end of combat operations in December 2014, NATO’s role has been mostly advisory and focused on training. US President Barack Obama wants to keep 8,400 American soldiers in Afghanistan, as the Taliban and Islamic State remain a threat to security.

US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson told Der Tagesspiegel, during a visit to Berlin after the summit, that he disagrees with the critics of the current Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani and his former challenger for the position, Abdullah Abdullah.

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He pointed out that Afghanistan is still unused to and adapting to a form of coalition government and that the rebuilding of the country is on the right track. Olson cited the healthcare situation in the country, which has contributed to longer life expectancy over the last decade. He also highlighted the progress seen in collecting tax.

Olson did not want to be drawn into whether Afghanistan is indeed a safe place to which asylum seekers can be returned, but did insist that he has seen “peaceful and stable regions”, while on the road.