1,257 Afghan children have left Germany since 2016 to return to Afghanistan with voluntary return programs. The Left party in Germany raised concern over a lack of perspectives for returning minors.
94 of the 1,257 Afghan children and youths who have left Germany since 2016 were unaccompanied minors, traveling without parents or relatives, the German Interior Ministry said. Around half of the returnees were 12 years or younger.
The inquiry had been made by the parliamentary group of the Left party after a report released by Save the Children recently described a lack of support and safety frameworks for children in their return setting.
Lack of support
For their report, the NGO talked with 57 children who returned from Europe to Afghanistan. Three-quarters of children interviewed said they did not feel safe during the return process. The children experienced violence and coercion and many said attempts had been made to recruit them to commit violent acts. Only 16 of them said that they were attending school.
The Interior Ministry, in their statement, said they had acknowledged the report by Save the Children and that the findings would be considered within the framework of the return programs, epd reports. However, less than 10 interviewees returned from Germany. Therefore the study was not representative, the Ministry said.
The number of Aghan children returnees from Germany has been decreasing since 2016. In the first half of 2018, only 36 children returned with the voluntary return scheme "REAG/GARP." The program offers financial and operational assistance upon arrival in the home country.
Afghans returning with the program "Perspektive Heimat," which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, can also receive reintegration assistance. An organization run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that implements the program in Afghanistan says that assistance includes school fees, rent assistance or psychological counseling.
Concern over voluntary nature
The Left party criticizes voluntary return programs like REAG/GARP. "What’s officially called a voluntary return is most likely a decision made by persons confronted with a concrete threat of deportation," Ulla Jelpke, speaker of the Left party in Parliament told the Funke media group. Jelpke said the authorities were acting in a hostile way: "The so-called voluntary return assistance does not support integration but rather traumatizes the children, who might be the next victims of war."