Not all locals who worked for German forces in Afghanistan are eligible for asylum in Germany | Photo: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images via DW
Not all locals who worked for German forces in Afghanistan are eligible for asylum in Germany | Photo: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images via DW

The first group of Afghans to be granted asylum for their work with the German military has arrived in Germany, according to Der Spiegel. They are fleeing the Taliban who consider them "traitors."

The first six members of Afghan personnel, who worked with the German military during their time in Afghanistan, have arrived in Germany with their families, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Monday.

Their arrival marks the beginning of a program to provide asylum to Afghans who aided the Bundeswehr and who are now fearing for their lives as the Taliban regains control of large parts of the country.

A total of 23 individuals — which includes children — were flown out of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of the country by Turkish Airlines, Spiegel said. Another 30 are expected in the coming days.

German military officials prepared documents for 471 local workers, such as interpreters, shortly before withdrawing from the country at the end of June. A further 2,380 visa documents were also readied for their families.

Why are people fleeing Afghanistan?

US and allied forces are in the process of leaving Afghanistan, with the plan to complete the withdrawal by September 11, some 20 years after the invasion began.

Locals who worked with the occupying forces have been branded "traitors" by the Taliban, whose reign was brought to an end by the invasion.

With international troops on their way out, the Islamist militants have made sweeping gains across the country, taking back numerous districts from Afghan government forces. Those who worked with the foreign forces now fear for their lives.

German government under fire

The German government expanded its protection program for these key workers to include all those who worked for the Bundeswehr or other German organizations since 2013, rather than just in the past two years as originally planned.

Nevertheless, the German government has been criticized for its overly complicated visa process. According to Der Spiegel, certain German ministers feared a "suction effect" if the visa hurdles were lowered.

Germany's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Rainer Breul acknowledged that the visa process had been complicated by the military's withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as the closure of the consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif. 

He added that Berlin was working with international partners such as the International Organization for Migration, according to AP.

Defense Ministry spokesperson David Helmbold said that a small number of visa applications were open because "not all of those who received these travel documents wanted to leave straight away," AP reported him saying in Berlin on Monday.

Critics have also lamented the fact that Afghan locals who worked for service providers on German bases, rather than directly for the Bundeswehr, are not eligible for the asylum program.

Author: Alex Berry

First published: July 5, 2021

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