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Afghan asylum seeker deported from Germany commits suicide

Masood Saifullah
July 11, 2018

An Afghan man deported from Germany has been found dead in a hotel room in Kabul after apparently committing suicide. The case highlights the adverse circumstances faced by Afghan returnees.

Afghanistan abgeschobene Flüchtlinge aus Deutschland kommen in Kabul an
Image: Getty Images/AFP/W. Kohsar

A failed Afghan asylum seeker deported from Germany on July 4, 2018, killed himself in a Kabul guesthouse on Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told DW. The 23-year-old man was staying at a hotel used by the IOM as temporary accommodation for returnees.  

"We can confirm that a 23-year-old Afghan, who was deported to Afghanistan along with 68 other Afghans on July 4, 2018, killed himself on Tuesday," Masood Ahmadi from the IOM said.

Read more: Afghan refugees in Pakistan face mass deportation

The deportee, who has not been identified by officials, was waiting to travel to western Herat Province, according to Ahmadi. An official investigation into the incident is underway. 

Mirwis Hashimi, another deportee from Germany staying at the same guesthouse, was among the first people to reach the room where the man hanged himself. "The whole building smelled bad. The police were called. When we went upstairs we saw that he had hanged himself," he told DW.

"His body had swollen and smelled bad. It was in very bad condition," he added.

Sent to an alien home

In 2016, the German government signed a deal with Kabul to repatriate Afghans who had failed to obtain asylum, and began expelling people in December 2016. So far this year, Germany has deported 148 Afghans to areas it considers safe.

Germany had initially said it would deport failed asylum seekers who had failed to provide documents about their identity or committed a crime. German chancellor Angela Merkel recently stated that Berlin was no longer limiting deportations to Afghanistan to people convicted of crimes.

Read more: Calls to rethink German refugee policy on Afghanistan

In the present case, however, authorities in the German city of Hamburg, where the Afghan asylum seeker had lived prior to his deportation, confirmed that the deportee in question had been convicted of theft, attempted bodily harm, resisting law enforcement officials and violation of the narcotics act. He was also charged with committing robbery and grievous bodily harm, a spokesperson for Hamburg's foreigners office was quoted by Germany's DPA news agency as saying.

While Merkel's decision to boost deportations to Afghanistan made her conservative coalition partners in the government happy, critics say Berlin is sending Afghans back to difficult conditions and with no proper measures in place to support returnees. 

The IOM provides temporary accommodation for Afghan deportees and helps them travel to a different province if they choose not to stay in Kabul. Hashimi, however, told DW that the support provided was not sufficient. "We are provided accommodation for just 15 days. They will ask us to leave after that. This is very difficult for me because I don’t have anywhere to go," he said.

"It is a scandalous act that Germany is even deporting Afghans who had been living in Germany for years to a government in Afghanistan which is already overburdened with the returnees from Iran and Pakistan," German refugee organization Pro Asyl told DW.

Some of the deportees have spent most of their lives living outside of Afghanistan before being deported. Many others have either sold or lost all their belongings to afford the trip to Germany. Going back to Afghanistan, they say, means they have to start from scratch in a country they fled long ago.

According to Pro Asyl, these asylum seekers find it difficult to rent an apartment or get a job after being sent back to Afghanistan.

Is Afghanistan safe?

The German government insists there are safe zones across war-ravaged Afghanistan where returnees could live in peace and security. Cities like Herat, Kabul and Balk are among these so-called safe zones. But the situation on the ground is different from the picture painted by Berlin, critics lament.

According to data released by the US government, the Taliban control 14 percent of Afghan districts while 30 percent more are contested between insurgents and Afghan security forces. Against this backdrop, Afghan asylum seekers contend that even if they were deported, they would have no other option but to again flee the conflict-stricken nation.

The German government, however, seems unconvinced. Recent comments made by the nation's conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer seem to suggest that he will continue to push for more deportations to Afghanistan. 

On Tuesday, Seehofer finally got to present his migration "master plan," a month after it was blocked at the last minute by Chancellor Merkel, precipitating a crisis in the German government that almost cost both of them their jobs.

Seehofer pointed out that the delayed release of his plans came on his 69th birthday, noting that this coincided with the deportation of 69 people to Afghanistan from Germany, quipping, "That was not on my order."

Abdul Azim Sultani, who had lived in the southern German state of Bavaria for three years and was among the latest group of deportees, told DW that he was not sure where to go and if he could survive in Afghanistan. "I really cannot live here. They tell me to live in other provinces. No province is safe. There are suicide attacks in Kabul regularly," Sultani said. "I don't have anyone here to help me. I have nowhere to live," he added.

Hussian Sirat and Waslat Hasrat Nazimi contributed to this story.