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Bundestag to debate Afghan deportations

The German parliament will discuss the controversial practice of sending Afghans who have been refused asylum back to "safe" regions in their homeland. Opposition lawmakers say there is no safe part of Afghanistan.

Demo gegen geplante Abschiebung am Frankfurter Flughafen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Probst)

'Stop! No deportations to Afghanistan,' the placard says

Germany's parliament was set to debate the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers on Friday after the expulsion of 34 individuals earlier in the week sparked outrage across the political spectrum.

In a newspaper interview, Green party co-leader Cem Özdemir called it a "slap in the face for those whose residency status isn't yet clear and must now suffer from even more anxiety." He then slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), for saying those Afghans sent home would not be in any danger in their native country.

Life for those being repatriated is "anything but safe," said Özdemir, pointing out that "parliament wants to continue the army's mission in Afghanistan, members of government wear bullet-proof vests in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is back on the offensive."

Özdemir joined a chorus of politicians who have criticized the government's move to deport more and more Afghans. On Thursday, Left party co-leader Katja Kipping said the decision "violated human rights" and the government's own human rights commissioner, Bärbel Kofler of the Social Democrats (SPD), has expressed her doubts.

"I have never seen a report that has given me the impression that there are any safe regions in Afghanistan," Kofler told the "Ausburger Allgemeine" daily on Friday.

Demo gegen geplante Abschiebung am Frankfurter Flughafen (Getty Images/AFP/D. Roland)

The government said the deportation was carried out peacefully, as protests were carried out at Frankfurt Airport

De Maiziere: Some deportees were criminals

Despite the outcry, the CDU has stood by Wednesday night's deportation of 34 Afghans whose asylum applications had been refused. In a press conference, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at least one-third of the deportees had committed crimes, some of them even coming out of Germany's prison system to board the plane to Afghanistan.

"Such instances of repatriation are correct and necessary to keeping our asylum system running," said de Maiziere.

The charter flight to Afghanistan from Frankfurt sparked an impromptu protest on Wednesday, with demonstrators at the airport holding signs saying things like "deportation is torture, deportation is murder," and "stop deportations to Afghanistan."

According to the interior ministry, some 12,500 Afghans in Germany have had their asylum applications rejected and are due to be deported. The federal government has set aside around 40 million euros ($41.7 million) for asylum seekers from Afghanistan who return voluntarily.

After Syrians, Afghans represent the second-largest group of refugees in Germany. Some 2,300 were returned to Afghanistan in 2016, and mass deportations are being planned by several federal states including Hesse, Bavaria, and North Rhine-Westphalia.

es/msh (KNA, epd)

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