After a forced nine-month interruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, a deportation flight with 11 Afghans landed today in Kabul. NGOs and politicians sharply criticized the practice amid the tense security situation in Afghanistan.
Several European countries have resumed deportation flights to Afghanistan that were suspended in the past few months due to anti-coronavirus measures, Afghan officials said Wednesday.
According to German news agency dpa, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Bulgaria and Hungary have already taken steps to deport failed Afghan asylum seekers.
Early on Wednesday (December 16), a group of 11 rejected asylum seekers arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul after being deported from Austria and Bulgaria, an official from the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation told dpa.
Officials confirmed that the chartered flight with ten asylum seekers from Austria and one from Bulgaria landed at 10:10 am local time at Kabul airport.
A deportation from Sweden, meanwhile, was prevented by activists, the head of the Afghan migration association in Sweden, Ahmed Aklil Khalil, said on Facebook.
After a break of more than nine months, Germany is also set to deport a group of rejected Afghan asylum seekers. According to officials, the flight from Germany is scheduled to land in Kabul on Thursday (December 17).
In late March, Germany decided to suspend deportation flights to Afghanistan. The decision came as a response to a request by Afghan authorities, the German interior ministry said back then.
One of the last pre-pandemic deportation flights to Afghanistan from Germany took place in mid-February. It was the 32nd deportation flight from Germany to Afghanistan since December 2016, when certain regions of Afghanistan were first recognized as safe by the German government.
Criticism amid dangerous situation
Deportations to Afghanistan have been deeply controversial. Time and again, critics have said that the war-torn country is too dangerous to send asylum seekers back to. Civilians are regularly the target of attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State extremist group.
Despite the beginning of peace talks, the conflict between the militant-Islamist Taliban and the Afghan government is continuing. Over the past ten years, more than 100,000 civilians were killed or injured.
Just today (December 16), Afghan officials said that at least 13 Afghan policemen were killed when Taliban militants attacked two checkpoints overnight in the north of the country. The coronavirus pandemic has further strained the economy and the already weak healthcare system.
German human rights organization Pro Asyl demanded a stop to deportation flights from Germany. "It is completely irresponsible to stubbornly continue this flight into the unknown despite a national lockdown," said Pro Asyl's managing director Günter Burkhardt.
"Human dignity and the right to health demand a deportation ban," Burkhardt added.
German Green party politician Claudia Roth also reacted with outrage. "All those attacks, assaults and massacres, which happen day in, day out in Afghanistan, prohibit deporting people there," the politician told dpa. "Afghanistan is not capable of providing for those people and guarantee their safety."
UN agency World Food Program, the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, this week lamented the difficult living conditions due to terror and COVID-19.
On Wednesday (December 16), the families of those killed in the 2009 airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, had their constitutional complaint thrown out by German judges. They were seeking to hold the German state accountable for their relatives' deaths.