Germany's interior minister has confirmed that the country has flown refugees back to Afghanistan. The move comes as Berlin seeks to stem the flow of asylum seekers into the country.
The head of the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that Berlin had sent a planeload of Afghan refugees back to their native country, emphasizing that they "had no prospects to stay in Germany."
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere confirmed that the 125 refugees had landed in Kabul and would receive some financial support.
"The voluntary return and - in case of need - the financial support is of great importance," he said. "It contributes to the important task of rebuilding Afghanistan."
Germany has been urging people in the war-torn central Asian country to remain there in an effort to stem the flow of migrants that has put a heavy burden on Berlin for months. De Maiziere said it was important for Germany to "help people help themselves" in economically, politically and socially devastated countries. He added that such work would be key to solving the refugee crisis. Some 1.1 million people sought refuge in Germany in 2015.
Germany puts pressure on African countries
De Maiziere is set to visit North Africa next week, where he will negotiate the return of rejected asylum seekers from countries in that region as well. The governments of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have pledged their support for the initiative, although there are still bureaucratic obstacles that must be cleared.
Berlin has also put pressure on other African countries, including Benin, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, to accept their nationals whose claims for asylum Germany rejects.
Meanwhile, refugee organizations have condemned the move to deport refugees back to their homelands, noting the often fragile security situations in these countries.
blc/sms (KNA, AFP, Reuters)