A year after it reached an agreement with Greece on returning migrants, Germany must take back a refugee who was stopped on the border and deported to Greece. A Munich court found that proper procedure under German law had not been followed. While it is allowed to send people back to other EU states, the procedure is complicated when a person is sent back directly from the border, as this case shows.
Germany has to take back an Afghan refugee the German federal police force had brought to Greece. The news comes roughly one year after German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer reached an agreement with Greece on returning migrants.
German Pro Asyl refugee aid organization said on Wednesday that the court ruling was the first of its kind. “European law also applies at German borders,” Pro Asyl’s Bellinda Bartolucci said.
In its ruling, made last week, the court found the decision by Munich police headquarters as an infringement of the refugee's rights: Germany was obliged to grant the man preliminary entry. The court further ruled that Germany must cover the costs for the transfer back to Germany and that it cannot appeal the decision.
In response, an interior ministry spokeswoman on Wednesday spoke of an “exceptional case” and declared that the federal police would continue to carry out deportations on the assumption that last year's agreement with Greece was legal.
The case centers on an Afghan asylum seeker who crossed the border from Austria by train in May. German police immediately decided to deport the man to Greece on the basis of a hit in the European Union's Eurodac database. It identified him as having made an earlier asylum application in Greece.
Wrongdoing by federal police
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) was not consulted, and the man was not given access to a lawyer, Pro Asyl said. Within 48 hours, the man was flown back to Greece, where he has been detained for more than two months.
The court said it saw no grounds under European law for the way the federal police acted. BAMF officials - not the police - were the relevant authorities to handle the case, the court said.
Pro Asyl noted that there had been conflict within the ruling German coalition ahead of Seehofer's deal with Greece. The agreement provides for migrants already registered in Greece to be deported back there within 48 hours.
A similar deal with Spain had been agreed shortly before. According to Germany’s interior ministry, to date 29 migrants have been returned to Greece and two to Spain.
Afghanistan still too dangerous?
Although critics say Afghanistan is still too dangerous for rejected asylum seekers, more than 500 Afghans have been returned to the south-central Asian nation since 2016. In July last year, one of a group of 69 men committed suicide after arriving back in the country.
According to a recent report by the Danish Refugee Council, migrants who are forcibly returned to Afghanistan have problems reintegrating because of depression, anxiety, isolation and stress.
In 2016, the German government signed a deal with the Afghan government to repatriate Afghans who had failed to obtain asylum. It began deportation flights in December 2016.
With material from dpa