Germany witnessed an unprecedented influx of refugees in 2015 and 2016. Many of these people return voluntarily. In two years, 45,000 people were deported.
Deportations to Afghanistan are a contentious issue, making headlines every now and then. Since the deportation agreement with Afghanistan in 2016, only 106 Afghans have been sent back (as of May 31, 2017) - much fewer compared to deportations to countries like Albania and Kosovo.
However, deportations to Afghanistan - a war zone - are incomprehensible for many German citizens. Even political parties in the parliament are divided on the issue. Supporters demand that deportations be consistently carried out, whereas the Greens, members of the leftist party, "Die Linke," and also some SPD politicians consistently reject deportations to Afghanistan.
Since the refugee crisis in 2016, Germany has strongly emphasized the principle of "voluntary departures." Rejected asylum seekers can receive monetary support and counselling to return to their home countries.
Often, there are no alternatives: an individual who doesn’t leave voluntarily faces deportation - without monetary support. But even those in the middle of the asylum process can apply for support in departure programs.
The most popular program is the REAG/GARP, which is sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Regardless of nationality, returnees are paid travelling expenses, extra money for travel and a one-time payment to start a business. For example: Afghans receive an initial financial support of about 500 euros per adult. For refugees from Egypt, the sum is around 300 euros.
The number of people returning voluntarily with support has increased considerably in the last years. In 2015, around 35,000 returnees received aid, while the number went up to 54,000 people in 2016.
Countries in the west Balkan witnessed the highest number of returns. Around 17,000 Albanians, 6,000 Serbs and 5,400 Kosovars used the voluntary return program. Even among Afghans, who are often threatened with deportation, 3,300 people decided for REAG/GARP.
Not everyone can stay
Since February 2017, the program "StartHilfe Plus" exists to promote voluntary returns. Anyone who decides to return before his asylum process is completed and withdraws his asylum application gets 1,200 euros. If a rejected asylum seeker does not appeal against the decision and decides to go back before the official deadline to return, he gets 800 euros. The federal government has sanctioned 40 million euros for the project.
Dublin process: deportation within the EU
The number of deportations is much lesser than the number of voluntary returnees. Altogether, 25,000 people were deported in 2016, a little more than in 2015. The main destinations here as well were the west Balkan nations with 6,000 deportations to Albania, around 5,000 to Kosovo and around 3,800 to Serbia.
EU countries also figured in the top of the list.1,100 people were returned to Italy and 400 to Spain. These numbers are probably related to the Dublin process (Dublin III). The Dublin process says the country which first registers the refugees is responsible for them.
For the people concerned, a deportation means a lot of emotional stress. Nobody likes to talk about it openly. If people decide to return voluntarily, they usually have a long way of suffering behind them. Many have given up hope of finding a job in Germany and settling down in society, according to an advisor of the Malteser humanitarian aid organization.
Mohammed Ajmeer, who is from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, is a good example. His journey to Germany cost him 8,000 dollars, but he wants to go back now. "I thought I would have a good chance of finding a job here." But he lost his motivation after he came to know that he had very little chances of getting asylum. Now his mother is ill and as the eldest son, he feels responsible for her.