As Germany prepares to pull its military out of Afghanistan, the country’s defense minister says she could be prepared to offer protection to up to 520 Afghan translators and their families.
Germany's defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is thinking about the future. Along with other western allied forces under NATO, including the USA, Germany is preparing to withdraw its military presence from Afghanistan by mid-August, after nearly 20 years working in the country.
Currently, according to the news agency Associated Press (AP), Germany has about 1,000 troops in service in Afghanistan and employs about 300 Afghans locally. The question is whether some of those employees will be in danger when Germany leaves.
Kramp-Karrenbauer told the German news agency dpa that she wants to make sure that they face no danger as Germany pulls out. "We are talking here about people who in some cases have worked for years by our side, at danger to their own safety, also have fought with us and made their personal contribution," she said.
Germany's 'deep obligation'
Kramp-Karrenbauer sees it as Germany’s "deep obligation," not to "leave these people behind unprotected now that we are finally leaving the country," reported AP.
Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper cited the German Interior Ministry, which said the military intended to set up an office in both Kabul and probably one in the north of the country, in Mazar-e-Sharif, to start processing the potentially 520 cases of Afghan translators and their immediate families.
If they are granted protection status in Germany, the Protestant news agency in Germany epd reported that the spouses and children of the translators would also be allowed to move to Germany.
Existing process needs improvement
There is already a procedure for granting asylum or protection to Afghan staff who worked for the German army. However, a number of cases have been disputed. According to the German Ministry of Defense, 781 people have been granted German residency since 2013, DW reports.
The head of the pro-refugee organization Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, warned the German government that it needed to make this process "quick and uncomplicated." He explained that even years after they had worked with the German army, the translators could be under threat. According to dpa, that is what Kramp-Karrenbauer wants too.
Kramp-Karrenbauer told dpa that it should be the obligation of all international forces in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of their local staff, even after those countries had withdrawn.
'Stop deportation flights to Afghanistan now'
Burkhardt also told the Editorial Network in Germany (Redaktionsnetwerk Deutschland RND), that Germany needed to stop any deportation flights to Afghanistan, given the instability in the country and the resurgence of the power of the Taliban.
Pro Asyl has reiterated its call for a stop to all deportation flights, saying that Afghanistan was about to be taken back by the Taliban. This has been echoed by other rights groups which fear that, as Western powers withdraw, the resulting power vacuum will leave Afghanistan wide open to the Taliban.
According to DW the Taliban has told foreign troops that they should withdraw even faster, by May 1 as former US President Donald Trump had originally promised.
Burkhardt added that Germany’s Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF) should start to change the way it assesses Afghans’ asylum claims. He said that there were "no safe places" in Afghanistan, even though policy-makers have decided otherwise.
BAMF told RND that there were currently about 278,000 Afghans in Germany. About 30,000 of them have been told to leave the country but about 27,000 of those people have received a "Duldung", which is a permanent or temporary suspension of their deportation order, sometimes known as a "tolerated stay permit."
According to RND, only 3,011 people are not in possession of this suspension order and could be asked to board a deportation flight.