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Germany and Netherlands suspend deportation of migrants back to Afghanistan

An injured man receives medical treatment after fighting between Taliban and security personnel, inside the city of Farah, capital of Farah province, southwest Afghanistan, on August 11 2021. Picture by Mohammad Asif Khan, AP
Frank Jordans, Associated Press

Germany and the Netherlands have suspended any deportations of migrants to Afghanistan due to the tense security situation as Taliban insurgents make sweeping gains in the country.

The German interior minister, Horst Seehofer, ordered the suspension “for the time being,” spokesman Steve Alter said on Wednesday. Earlier, Alter said that almost 30,000 Afghans in Germany are currently required to leave the country.

In the Netherlands, the justice state secretary, Ankie Broekers-Knol, wrote to parliament that changes in Afghanistan were so unpredictable “that a decision was taken to impose a departure moratorium”.

She said the decision was justified by “the worsening situation and the possibility to wait for a decision until there is a more stable assessment of the situation.” She said no forced deportations to Afghanistan had been immediately planned ahead of her decision.

In Germany, six Afghan citizens were scheduled for deportation last week but the process was postponed, the German news agency dpa reported.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry is updating its new asylum evaluation report, which usually provides the main criteria for deciding whether rejected asylum-seekers can be deported. Since 2016, more than 1,000 Afghan migrants who unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Germany have been sent back to their home country, according to dpa.

Last week, six other European Union member countries argued that the forced deportation of migrants back to Afghanistan must continue despite the government in Kabul suspending such “non-voluntary returns” for three months.

In a letter dated Aug 5, the interior ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands urged the EU’s executive branch to “intensify talks” with the Afghan government to ensure that the deportations of refugees would continue.

“Stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU,” the ministers wrote to the European Commission.

The commission confirmed on Tuesday that it had received the letter and would reply when ready. Asked whether Afghanistan was a safe place to forcibly send people, spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said: “It is up to each [EU] member state to make an individual assessment of whether a return is possible.”

Emboldened by the Biden administration’s decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan and end NATO’s troop training mission in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents have captured five out of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in less than a week.

Afghan security forces, which have been backed, trained and financed with billions of dollars in a 20-year-long Western military effort that included many EU countries, appear unable to cope with the Taliban offensive.

More than one million migrants came to Germany in 2015 looking for asylum, most of them from countries ravaged by civil wars such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

An Afghan boy receives medical care at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) physical rehabilitation center after being injured in fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 10 2021. Picture by Mariam Zuhaib, AP  

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