The Afghan government has asked European countries to suspend deportations for three months due to the unstable situation in the country. While Germany says it currently has no plans to stop deporting rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, Finland has announced a temporary suspension.
The German government has no plans to suspend deportations to Afghanistan. "Those who do not get a right of residence in Germany should leave our country again," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin on Monday. Decisions about deportation continue to be made "on the basis of a constantly updated, very close observation of the situation" in countries of origin, he said.
The German Foreign Office has announced that there will be a new report this month on the security situation in Afghanistan. Seibert said that the government will decide how to proceed on the basis of this report.
Kabul calls for suspension
The Afghan government had called on European states to suspend deportations to Afghanistan for the next three months. "The escalation of violence by the Taliban terrorist group in the country and the spread of the third wave [of COVID-19] have caused a great deal of economic and social unrest, creating concerns and challenges for the people," Afghanistan's refugees and repatriation ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
In the lower house of the German Parliament, Thorsten Frei, from the Christian Democratic Party, told the news network Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that he "could not understand" the call for a halt to deportations. "We are talking about very few people," he said, adding that just over 1,000 people have been deported to Afghanistan since 2016. "I don't see how a stop could help to ease the tense security situation."
The Afghan government needs to continue to cooperate with the few deportation flights "even through difficult times," Frei said.
The German government has said it will consider Afghanistan's request, but it plans to hold discussions with its European partners first. According to a spokesperson, Germany’s interior ministry intends to seek talks with the Afghan government on the issue "in the very near future."
The security situation in Afghanistan has worsened since international troops began a withdrawal from the country at the end of April. Observers are warning that the Taliban could take power again after the withdrawal is complete. In some areas the Taliban is encountering little resistance in its advance. It says it has already conquered 85% of the country and controls 250 of the nearly 400 districts in Afghanistan, a claim rejected by the government in Kabul.
Finland halts returns
In view of the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, Finland is suspending deportations to the country for the time being. The Finnish Immigration Service announced on Monday that the "issuing of negative notices" for Afghan citizens had been suspended on Friday.
A spokesperson from the Finnish Immigration Service told the newspaper Iltalehti that suspending deportations did not mean that those affected would automatically receive permanent residence permits, but decisions on their applications would be postponed.
The government has not set an end date for the suspension. Jaakko PurontieIt, a legal advisor with the Immigration Service, said it was not possible to predict the situation a person might be returned to, Reuters reports. According to data from the Service, more than 70% of asylum applications from Afghans in Finland are accepted.
World’s second-largest refugee population
There were almost 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan in 2018 – the second-largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. The vast majority are in neighboring Pakistan, followed by Iran, and Europe.
More than 570 Afghan refugees voluntarily returned to the country between January and March this year with the assistance of the UN, but only six came from outside Pakistan and Iran, according to UNHCR data.
Afghans make up a large share of asylum seekers in the EU, with 44,190 first-time applications last year, out of a total of 416,600, according to the EU's statistics agency, Eurostat. The Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, last month said that a large number of asylum seekers from Afghanistan would again try to reach Europe after foreign forces leave the country.
The United States and many other countries that committed forces to Afghanistan have agreed to offer asylum to Afghans who worked with foreign troops and are at risk of retaliatory attacks from the Taliban.
Half of the people need aid
On Sunday Afghanistan recorded more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, the health ministry said. Almost 135,000 cases and more than 5,700 deaths have been reported since the pandemic began. The country is relying on donations from the international community to vaccinate its population.
Meanwhile at least half of the country's 33.5 million people need humanitarian assistance, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. As well as drought and COVID-19 concerns, the "escalation of military activities and escalation of conflict and war is causing more suffering,” Alakbarov said.
Alakbarov said that this year, 25 humanitarian workers have been killed while delivering aid. He called for continued financial support to meet Afghanistan's humanitarian assistance, adding that around €380 million had come so far as global donations following an appeal of just over €1 billion made for 2021. "The needs are so much greater, and continued assistance is needed," Alakbarov said.
With afp, dpa, Reuters