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Angela Merkel announces temporary halt on Afghan deportations after Kabul bombing

A deadly blast in Kabul this week reignited the debate on deporting refugees from Germany to war-torn Afghanistan. The chancellor has now temporarily halted expulsions for all except criminals and security threats.

Watch video 00:20

Merkel: 'Voluntary returns and deportation of criminals will continue'

Germany will temporarily suspend deportations to Afghanistan after a deadly bombing in Kabul this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.

Commenting on the massive blast that killed at least 90 people in downtown Kabul, Merkel said it was time to reassess the security situation in the country.

Federal and state governments agreed on a suspension of deportations to Afghanistan until a further security assessment by the foreign ministry, Merkel said in Berlin, adding that the suspension would most likely continue until July.

Pending the new assessment, Germany will continue to promote voluntary return and would keep deporting criminal offenders and threats to security on a case by case basis, Merkel said.

The attack was a reason to "take another proper look" at Afghanistan, with the German Foreign Ministry examining the threats "province by province."

Read: Afghanistan: sent back to a war zone

Many German politicians have long argued that Merkel's government was not justified in sending refugees back to Afghanistan due to safety concerns.  The argument escalated after the latest attack in the heavily guarded diplomatic heart of Kabul. In response, the German Green Party on Thursday launched a parliamentary motion to halt the deportations. The largest opposition party in the German parliament, the Left Party, derided deportations as "inhumane."

As the news of the Wednesday attack broke, Germany was preparing to send a plane full of refugees back to Kabul. The plane was delayed, with Berlin explaining that German diplomats in Kabul were too preoccupied with the blast to deal with the returnees.

However, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that the flight would be rescheduled as soon as possible. 

Failed Afghan asylum seekers board a plane that will take them back to Afghanistan (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Maurer)

Germany has sent several plane loads of failed asylum seekers in a controversial series of deportations

Earlier, Joachim Herrmann, interior minister in the German state of Bavaria, had told the media that it was still "feasible" to return the refugees to Afghanistan.

"The latest attack in Kabul was terrible," he told newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe. "But we don't have to stop the deportations because of it."

Read: Types of protection in Germany for asylum seekers

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A would be suicide bomber shares his story

No place is safe

Merkel's main rival in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Martin Schulz, had urged for a halt to deportations at least until the assessment is complete.

"In the light of what happened yesterday, I don't think we should be deporting anymore," he said, speaking at a forum organized by the German public broadcaster WDR.

A defense policy expert for Schulz's SPD party, Rainer Arnold, agreed that deportations were "not responsible" at this moment.

"There is no place in that country where people can live safely," he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

Between December and March, Germany deported 92 Afghan nationals on several charter flights to Kabul.

aw, dj/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP, KNA)

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