While Germany's interior minister says many Afghan asylum seekers will be sent back to their home country, Afghanistan's minister of refugees tells DW that Kabul will only accept those who return voluntarily.
Despite new measures by European governments to curb the influx of refugees, thousands of migrants continue to undertake perilous journeys to reach Germany and other EU nations. In the latest development, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said during a trip to Afghanistan's capital Kabul that many Afghans seeking asylum in Germany would be sent home, arguing that many of these migrants are looking for better economic opportunities rather than refuge.
Last year, Afghans made up the second-largest group of people seeking asylum in Europe, behind Syrians. More than 150,000 Afghans applied for asylum in Germany alone last year.
De Maiziere also told German news agency DPA on February 1 that the security situation in Afghanistan is "complicated" but "there are unsafe and safe areas." He said the aim is to make "people stay in Afghanistan and rebuild the country." The minister did not rule out the possibility of financial incentives for those wanting to rebuild their lives back in Afghanistan.
However, in a DW interview, Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriations Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi says that Afghanistan will only take back those migrants who are willing to return to their home country voluntarily. He insisted the host country should understand the current situation in Afghanistan and grant asylum to Afghan migrants based on their individual cases.
DW: Afghan government officials recently held talks with German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere. Did the government in Kabul agree to officially receive any Afghan migrants deported by Germany?
Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi: We agreed with the German interior minister to only work on issues surrounding voluntary returnees. Both the German and Afghan governments agreed on motivating Afghan migrants in Europe to return to their country. Fortunately, we have a high number of Afghans who are willing to come back.
The Afghan embassy in Berlin has informed us that more than 600 Afghans have declared their intention to return voluntarily.
If Germany starts deporting Afghans, how will the Afghan government react to the situation?
We have been very clear in our talks with the German minister that forceful deportations require more negotiations, agreements and further discussion. At the moment, our talks are only focused on voluntary returnees.
Did the German and Afghan governments sign an agreement on immigrants who are planning to return to their country voluntarily?
German Interior Minister De Maiziere suggested issuing a joint statement about our agreements on voluntary returnees. However, the Afghan side insisted on the need for more negotiations. I am confident that both Afghan and German officials will reach a deal on this issue.
German officials say they will send Afghan migrants to "safe areas" in Afghanistan. What parts of Afghanistan are considered safe areas?
Our talks with German officials have only focused on immigrants who are willing to return to their country. The topic of safe areas in Afghanistan will be discussed in future talks.
Minister De Maiziere also suggested that Germany could provide financial incentives to those willing to return to Afghanistan. Was this issue discussed in detail during his visit to Kabul?
Providing financial aid to returnees is one of the incentives that both Afghanistan and Germany have agreed upon. However, the specifics have not yet been decided.
Last year, Afghans made up the second-largest group of people seeking asylum in Europe, behind Syrians
Does the Afghan government have the resources to provide assistance to potential Afghan returnees?
We are always ready to help reintegrate returnees. In 2002, more than 1.5 million Afghans, mostly from Pakistan and Iran, returned to their country. In 2014, the number dropped to 70,000 people from different countries.
What do you say to those Afghan migrants in Germany who criticize the government in Kabul for agreeing to take back deportees?
We have always called on host countries to understand the situation in Afghanistan and grant asylum to Afghans based on their individual cases. We have not signed any agreement with any country stating that Kabul will receive forceful deportees. Our only focus remains on those migrants who are willing to return to their country voluntarily.
Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi is Afghanistan's Minister of Refugees and Repatriations.