A deportation aircraft bound for Afghanistan in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2016 | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/B.Roessler
A deportation aircraft bound for Afghanistan in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2016 | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/B.Roessler

Germany’s various regional interior ministers are in the middle of a three-day meeting with the federal interior minister, Horst Seehofer. The meeting included heated discussions, and disagreement, over regional deportation policies. Why is this issue so controversial in Germany?

Germany is a federal state. Although it has a federal interior minister, Horst Seehofer from the conservative CSU party who determines federal policy, each of the 16 states ("Bundesland") is responsible for its own interior policy, including deciding on deportation laws. And that’s where the arguments start.

At the moment, CDU/CSU-led states like Bavaria and Saxony regularly deport those who have been refused asylum from Afghanistan back to their country. Most of the other regions only deport those who have committed a crime or are considered dangerous. A few states make decisions on a case-by-case basis, even though sometimes those policies appear to contradict what their party lines state regarding deportation. Many states in Germany, like the federal government, are led by coalitions. That means that parties within the same coalition could have differing policies towards deportation.

Some asylum seekers lose all hope when faced with deportation  Credit picture alliancedpaU Anspach

Examples from different states

  • Brandenburg (in eastern Germany, the region around Berlin). It is led by the social democrats SPD who co-govern with the left-leaning Linke party. Their interior minister is Karl-Heinz Schröter from the SPD. The state deports people to Afghanistan on a case-by-case basis, including those who have committed crimes or are considered dangerous.
  • Mecklenburg Vorpommern (in eastern Germany, spans the region north of Berlin to the Baltic). It is led by the SPD who co-govern with the conservative CDU. Their interior minister Lorenz Caffier is from the CDU party. The state deports people to Afghanistan on a case-by-case basis, including those who have committed crimes or are considered dangerous.
  • Saxony-Anhalt (in eastern Germany, to the south and west of Berlin). It is led by the CDU who co-govern with the SPD and the Greens. Their interior minister is Holger Stahlknecht from the CDU. The state deports people to Afghanistan on a case-by-case basis, including those who have committed crimes or are considered dangerous.
  • Baden-Württemberg (in south-western Germany is a neighbor of Bavaria). It is led by the Greens who co-govern with the CDU. Their interior minister is Thomas Strobl from the CDU party. The state deports criminals, those they consider dangerous and people who have falsified their identity. According to the German newspaper, Die Welt, Strobl would like to widen this net still further. The Migration expert for the Greens in the regional parliament, Daniel Lede Abal, told the newspaper Die Welt that: “Further widening deportations to Afghanistan would be irresponsible and inhuman; [because the situation in Afghanistan remains unstable and dangerous.]”
A protest against deportation  Photo Picture Alliance  DPA M Balk

National party policy on deportation

  • CDU (Conservative party – leads the federal government coalition) – Pushes for clear rules to aid integration. In Saxony, the CDU interior minister Roland Wöller told the German press agency DPA that he wanted to start discussing ending the ban on deportations to Syria for those who have committed crimes. He called upon the federal government to take another look at the situation in Syria and to reassess how dangerous it might be to send people back. DPA quoted him saying “As soon as [Syria] is considered a safe place to send people, criminals, those considered dangerous and supporters of the Assad regime, and anyone who wants to go back to Syria for a holiday [asylum is granted to people who are in danger in their home country, if you are able to return for a holiday you would lose the grounds for which you had been granted asylum] should be deported.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also stated that it should be possible to lift the restrictions on those that can be deported to Afghanistan.
  • CSU (Conservative party in Bavaria) – On their party website, the CSU says that anyone who lives in their region (Bavaria) should respect the German culture and customs and learn German. Asylum is granted for those who need it but it is seen as a temporary proposition. As soon as conditions improve in an asylum-seekers’ country of origin, protection can be removed, and people sent back. Anyone not obeying the rules should be sent back to their home countries. The CSU also wants to be able to deport anyone who has been refused asylum, in order to strengthen asylum law. At the end of May, an 18-year-old Afghan convicted of fist-fighting and violent disorder under the influence of drugs and alcohol in Amberg was deported to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul along with 23 others.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to speed up and simplify the deportation process  Photo Picture-allianceAP PhotoMSohn
  • SPD (Social Democrats) – On their party website they state that anyone who no longer has the right to stay in Germany should be sent back to their country of origin. They also say that migration needs clear rules for it to function in Germany. Boris Pistorius, Lower Saxony’s interior minister said that the party would continue to block a widening of the categories of those who could be deported to Afghanistan or Syria. The CDU and CSU wanted to be able to start deporting anyone who had been refused asylum, even if they have not committed a criminal offence, have not lied about their identity and are not considered a danger to society. The SPD stated that until the German foreign office declares countries ‘safe’ they could not support widening the categories for deportation.
  • Die Linke (The Left) – Ulla Jelpke is the spokesperson for interior policy for Die Linke party. She says even the current categories for deportation to Afghanistan are “irresponsible.” She says any attempt to deport women and children to Afghanistan would tarnish the idea of human rights in Germany. Their party website states clearly that they are against any deportation. In particular, they oppose deportations to warzones or to places which would plunge a person in danger of being made homeless, where they might not have access to medical care or where they would be discriminated. They support efforts to stop deportations altogether and would like everyone who is already in Germany to be granted permission to stay.
  • The Green Party – on their official website, the party says that they are against deportations to warzones and unstable countries like Afghanistan. Luise Amtsberg is the spokesperson for the Greens regarding migration and refugee policy. The party quotes the UN’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan as “highly dangerous.” Amtsberg reiterated the Green’s policy just ahead of the interior minister conference. She said that the current deportations to Afghanistan were problematic because those deported were not given any transition help on arrival, for instance a place to stay. She said that made them vulnerable and many of them arrived back with no family or other contacts to help them. She said that the federal government needed to recognize the reality of the situation in Afghanistan. Similarly in Syria, the Greens say that the situation is still fragile and dangerous, especially for those returning from Europe who could be threatened by the Assad regime. They want the moratorium on deportations to Syria to remain in place. They also call for a moratorium to be placed on deportations to Sudan given the escalation of the situation in that country and the current unrest.
Deportations from Germany especially to Afghanistan have triggered demonstrations Protesters have argued that some home countries arent safe  Photo Picture-alliancedpaSBabbar
  • FDP – (Liberal party) – say on their official website that those who do not fulfill the criteria of asylum or any other form of protection should be sent home. They support controlled migration policies and faster decision-making times for those who should be granted asylum so that they can integrate into society and the job market. They think that as soon as the grounds for granting asylum are removed, the people should be sent back to their countries of origin. They also disapprove of the Dublin system and are calling for a better division of asylum-seekers and refugees Europe wide. They want a Canadian style migration policy with a points system. They also want Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to be recognized as safe countries so that those who are refused asylum from those countries can be sent back more quickly.
  • AFD – (Alternative for Germany) – the right-wing party supports deportations for those who have been refused asylum and criticizes attempts to politically hinder deportations as outlined by German law. They want to make deportations easier. On the AFD Kompakt website, Thomas Jung, the AFD leader in Brandenburg’s regional parliament, says that “anyone who has been served with a deportation notice should be held to prevent anyone hindering their deportation.” He complains that in Brandenburg more than half of the proposed deportations are hindered by those who oppose them and this should be stopped. One of the AFD leaders Alice Weidel wrote in April that anyone who tries to stop deportations should be “severely punished by law.”  

Civil society opposition

Human rights organizations like Pro-Asyl and the Refugee Council in the northern German region of Schleswig-Holstein as well as “Jugendliche ohne Grenzen” (young people without borders) called for the assembled interior ministers to protect the rights of migrants. They criticized the new migration policy package calling some of the proposals “inhumane.” The regional parliament will decide whether to take on these policies at the end of June in their last sitting before the summer break.

Also read: Germany's political parties - what you need to know


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