Germany is said to be considering whether it can resume sending Afghans who commit crimes or pose a threat to society back to their homeland. According to German newspaper reports the government is under pressure to re-start deportations suspended since 2021.
No one has been returned to Afghanistan from Germany since the Taliban takeover in 2021. That includes not only Afghan asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected, but also those convicted of crimes or deemed to be a danger to society.
While the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains dire, sending people back would be exposing them to the risk of serious rights violations, Filiz Polat, a German Greens party spokesperson on migration, told the newspaper Welt.
There is a further, related obstacle to resuming deportations: Germany currently has no diplomatic relations with the de facto government of the Taliban, making it impossible to coordinate any returns in both legal and practical terms.
The prerequisites for deportations – a stable security situation, guarantees of the safety of aircraft and security personnel accompanying the deportees, and working relationships with officials in Afghanistan – do not exist. But according to Bild am Sonntag, which cites "security sources", other parties in Germany’s coalition government, including the interior minister’s own Social Democratic Party (SPD) are nevertheless pushing for consideration to be given to a partial lifting of the ban.
Also read: Germany fails to carry out two in three deportations
Pressure from all sides
"A solution is needed, especially to regulate cases [of Afghan migrants] that are serious and threaten security," SPD parliamentary vice-chair Dirk Wiese told Welt.
Stephan Thomae, from the liberal FDP party, said: "If people from abroad do not comply with our legal system, but commit criminal offenses and thus endanger our security, they have to leave our country." He added, however, that decisions should always be taken on a case-by-case basis and must be in line with the foreign ministry’s assessment of the current sitution in Afghanistan, Welt reported.
Alexander Throm from the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) accused both the foreign office and the government of inaction on the issue, while the parliamentary leader of the right-wing AfD, Alice Weidel, said the move to review the deportation ban was "too little, too late."
"An important first step would be to prevent the influx of further threats by sealing the German borders against illegal immigration," Welt reported Weidel as saying.
Human rights concerns
Writing on Twitter, Germany’s largest refugee advocacy group Pro Asyl described the debate as absurd. "Deportation can only take place if there is collaboration with the Taliban."
"That would mean working with the very regime from which tens of thousands of people have had to flee in recent months. Exactly the same regime from which the German military had to evacuate people," wrote Pro Asyl.
"International law states that deportation can only be carried out if there is no risk of torture or serious human right violations in the destination country.
"Does Nancy Faeser really want to tell us that the Taliban respects human rights?"
Also read: Taliban blocking Afghan evacuations to Germany: report
Criticism of the government over the issue of deportations is not new. Similar debates have taken place in Germany and other European countries in relation to bans on deporting Syrian asylum seekers. A general moratorium on forced returns to Syria in place, in Germany from 2012, was lifted at the end of 2020 after political pressure bolstered by reports of crimes carried out by Syrian migrants.
Former interior minister Horst Seehofer tried unsuccessfully to increase the number of deportations with a law on "orderly returns". The current coalition government also pledged to carry out a "repatriation offensive" targeting in particular dangerous and criminal migrants.
But apart from the hurdles when it comes to Afghanistan, the government has often failed to implement repatriations where those due to be deported are nationals of countries with which Germany has no agreement to take back its citizens.