Just weeks after a spate of attacks in Kabul forced Germany to halt deportations to Afghanistan, plans for more flights are reportedly afoot. Failed Afghan asylum-seekers could be forced home as early as next week.
Germany could restart its program of deportation of failed asylum-seekers to Afghanistan as soon as next week, German media reported on Thursday.
Germany halted its controversial deportation program earlier this month after the Afghan capital of Kabul was struck with one of its deadliest suicide bombings.
Separate reports from public broadcaster NDR and news magazine Der Spiegel said a new deportation flight to Kabul from Leipzig could leave on Wednesday.
Those reports were not officially confirmed.
After the bombing, Germany’s federal and state governments agreed on a suspension of deportations to Afghanistan until a further security assessment by the Foreign Ministry. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the halt would likely last until July.
Merkel also said they would continue to deport criminals and security threats as well as those who did not want to release their identity.
Rights groups decry policy
Many German politicians and rights groups have long argued that Merkel’s government was not justified in sending refugees back to Afghanistan due to safety concerns.
Günter Burkhardt, head of the refugee rights organization, Pro Asyl, said it was “incomprehensible and appalling” that the deportations should begin again.
He also warned that the broad wording of the policy puts many Afghans in danger. For example, migrants seeking protection but who do not own a passport could be seen to be refusing to their release their identity. The terms “criminal” and “security risks” are also subjective and could be interpreted very broadly, he said.
By the end of April Germany deported a total of 8,620 failed asylum-seekers this year, according to a report by Die Welt am Sonntag, which cited figures from Germany’s federal police. Last year it deported more than 25,000.
Some 11,195 failed asylum seekers returned to their home country voluntarily in the year until April. In 2016, a total of 54,006 people chose the voluntary return program, which covers certain costs, including travel expenses.
Read more: Afghanistan: sent back to a war zone
Dangers facing returnees
Despite Afghanistan not being on Germany’s official list of “safe countries of origin,” the federal government has nevertheless been pushing for speedier repatriations of failed asylum seekers following last December’s Berlin terror attack.
The federal government has repeatedly said that “some parts” of the country are now safe and therefore suitable for Afghan returnees, although several state governments are openly challenging this position, saying none of Afghanistan can yet be classified as safe.
Burkhardt said that Afghans returning from Europe find themselves in particular danger, pointing out that anyone found dressed in supposed western clothes would be immediately viewed as a collaborator with the west.
Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation prompted German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to call for peace talks with the Taliban earlier this month.
“One doesn’t make peace with friends, rather with enemies,” Gabriel told the weekly Bild am Sonntag newspaper, saying the Taliban must be negotiated with in order to find a political solution in Afghanistan.
The radical Islamist movement, made up largely ethnic Pashtuns, still controls or influences nearly 40 percent of the country, proving their resiliency 16 years after a US-led invasion of the country.