The Netherlands and Germany on Wednesday abruptly reversed course and said they would not for the time being deport Afghan citizens who are seeking asylum, given the rapidly escalating conflict in their homeland.
The decisions by The Hague and Berlin contradict a letter that they had signed to the European Commission last week insisting on their right to forcibly deport Afghan asylum seekers whose cases had been rejected.
German interior ministry spokesman Steve Alter announced the new decision on Twitter “in light of the current security situation” in Afghanistan, hours after journalists were told at a government news conference that deportations would continue despite major advances by Taliban insurgents.
Earlier in the day, an interior ministry spokesperson said that Germany still believed it should be possible to deport Afghan asylum seekers despite major advances of Taliban militants in their country, adding cases were handled on individual merit.
In a letter to parliament, Dutch deputy Justice Minister Ankie Broekers-Knol said the Netherlands had planned to update its policy on Afghanistan in October but had made the decision now “in light of the quickly deteriorating situation” there.
The Taliban, fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster from power, have made sudden, strong gains in their campaign to defeat the Kabul government as U.S.-led foreign forces withdraw after a 20-year presence.
“The situation is undergoing such changes and developments and is so uncertain for the coming time, that I have decided to impose a freeze on decisions and deportations” in ongoing asylum cases, Broekers-Knol wrote.
However, Greece, which last week co-signed the letter with five other European Union countries, said on Wednesday that ending such deportations “would send the wrong message” and encourage more Afghans to try to reach Europe.
The other signatories to last week’s letter to the EU Commission were Belgium, Austria and Denmark.