On Tuesday evening, Germany returned around 50 rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, among them seven convicted criminal offenders. The group, however, also included two young men considered to be suicidal. Who is being deported and on what grounds?
Karimullah S. is one of the 46 Afghans who was deported Tuesday night from Munich airport. The 21-year-old man from Kandahar province had attempted to take his life after he came to Germany. "This was due to a traumatic journey and spending time in detention custody in Passau", explains Barbara Domke, a social worker at the communal residence in the eastern town of Forst. "Luckily we were able to transfer him from deportation custody to Forst in late 2016. He would not have survived otherwise", Domke says.
Domke has been taking care of Karimullah S. these past months, in which, she says, the young man suffered daily panic attacks. The fact that he was now deported is scandalous, Domke says. "The legal grounds for this deportation were missing. A vulnerable young man in need of protection was deported", Domke told the Refugee Council Brandenburg.
According to the Refugee Council Bavaria, there was another deportee among the 46 who not only suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder but had undergone a stomach surgery five days prior to deportation. Another deportee was also considered suicidal.
Legal grounds missing
Asylum lawyer Myrsini Laaser points out that the case of Karimullah S. is questionable from a legal perspective too. She insists that both the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) as well as the administrative court have made "blatant mistakes“ in the reviewal of his asylum application and first instance appeal. Karimullah S. was rejected, and his deportation was followed through before a final decision by the court had been made, Laaser explained.
"A fair and legal procedure would imply that a final decision by the court had been at hand. The case will now have to be continued in his absence, which is unacceptable“, Laaser said according to Refugee Council Brandenburg. Leese considers Karimullah S.‘s rejection as not in line with the law. "The appeals case is still pending. We will continue the case, but the client will not be able to attend his hearing, which will be very difficult“, the lawyer told InfoMigrants.
In early July, Afghan asylum seeker Nasibullah S. was deported even though his asylum decision was still pending. He was returned to Germany after the case went public.
Inadequate support for returnees
The reason why not only social worker Barbara Domke but also political experts oppose sending traumatized and suicidal persons back to Afghanistan is that the security situation is considered extremely volatile. Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network says: "Besides the fact that overall, no safe areas can be discerned over an extended time period, the German authorities are running a high risk by sending traumatized and even suicidal people back to Kabul where they have no social networks. The support they are offered there is rudimentary at the most."
The Afghan government is not providing adequate medical support for those in need, Ruttig says, as hundreds of thousands of returnees are arriving in Afghanistan from neighboring countries while the socioeconomic situation is deteriorating.
What’s the official policy line?
Deportations to Afghanistan are considered controversial and often stir heated policial debate. As of June, the German government follows a non-restrictive approach to deporting not only those who are considered criminal offenders, convicted felons or those withholding identification to authorities but rejected asylum seekers at large. However, the actual number of deportations is much smaller than the number of rejected asylum seekers.
There are currently around 16,000 Afghans in Germany who have received a notice to leave the country and are subject to deportation. Since the beginning of the year, around 150 Afghans have been deported. The state of Bavaria has been adamant that it wants to speed up deportations of those subject to deportation, meaning that cases like Karimullah S. or deportations of well-integrated asylum seekers who are in the middle of an apprenticeship, a traineeship or have a proper job could become the norm.
Integration despite rejection
According to official figures, there are as many as 618,000 rejected asylum seekers in Germany. Many end up staying an indefinite amount of time – the reasons for why a return is not followed through are manifold. Many integrate well into society, learning the language, finding work or training for a profession.
Around 37 percent of rejected asylum seekers have a „Duldung“, a status meaning an imposition of a ban on deportation, dpa reports. Those with a Duldung can seek work under certain circumstances. This is not as easy as for people with full refugee protection status. For example, rejected asylum seekers with a Duldung need the approval of the Foreigner’s Registration Office as well as the Labor Agency. From the employer’s perpective, there are hurdles as well. Businesses are more hesitant to hire people who might be deported. But on the other hand, a shortage of skilled labor in many business sectors has set in motion a public debate over how to lower the hurldes for rejected asylum seekers to enter the workforce.
The call for deportations on the one hand, and the need for skilled labor, on the other, will likely fuel political debate in the near future.