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Afghan Bundeswehr helpers denied asylum

October 16, 2014

Despite their right to apply for asylum in Germany, many former Afghan employees and helpers of the German Bundeswehr have had their applications refused; many others don't even know the opportunity exists.

Bundeswehr Camp Marmal Masar-i-Scharif Afghanistan Abzug Deutschland Transportmaschine ISAF Truppe
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The 1,650 Afghan employees, mostly interpreters, of the German military and the German Society for International Cooperation - or GIZ - during the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan are being denied safe haven in Germany, despite being threatened by the Taliban.

Joint research by Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and the public TV Broadcasters WDR and NDR published on Thursday revealed that, on the off chance the local workers were even informed about the possibility of applying for asylum, 60 percent of applications were refused.

The revelation coincided with a meeting of the leaders of Germany's 16 federal states in Potsdam to discuss the rights and conditions of refugees in the country. It's a topic that has recently been in the spotlight, as stories about the harmful treatment of refugees continue to come under public scrutiny.

The local workers helping Germany's mission to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are supposed to have been informed by their German superiors of their right to apply for asylum if they felt threatened.

Afghanistan Bundeswehr Abzug Nordafghanistan
A few hundred members of the German military have stayed behind to train Afghan security forcesImage: DW/M. Saifullah

Many former employees of the GIZ and Bundeswehr told the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) that not only were they for the large part kept in the dark, some had their applications revoked because the threat to their lives was not considered "serious enough."

Kinks in the bureaucratic pipeline have deadly consequences

Former military officer and current Social Democrat (SPD) politician Reinhold Robbe called the situation "disgraceful."

One major problem, as co-founder of the refugee rights group ProAsyl, Victor Pfaff, pointed out, is that the criteria for a successful application are considered confidential and thus kept from the applicants, as well as from their lawyers and the public. Pfaff raised the question of whether such a secretive process could be trusted. He also warned that locals would be reluctant to help international missions and organizations in the future if they thought they wouldn't be protected when in danger.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung illustrated the gravity of the issue with the example of Palwasha Thoki, a young woman who worked with the German mission until 2012, when she left Afghanistan for a year.

Shortly after her return to Mazar-e-Sharif last August, she reported to a German military field camp that her life had been threatened. Days before she was scheduled to have a hearing at the German consulate, she was found murdered in her home.

German government promises support for its Afghan workers

The coalition agreement between the German federal government partners of SPD and Christian Democrats (CDU) promises the "best possible protection" for Afghan employees of German organizations who wish to bring their families to safety in Germany. The various ministries involved (Interior, Foreign, Defense, Economic Cooperation and Development) maintain that this promise has been put into practice.

Yet, as the SZ reports, of the 956 asylum applications the Bundeswehr has received from former Afghan employees, 583 have been rejected. The reasons for these rejections have not been made public.

es/sb (AFP, dpa)