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Situation report on Afghanistan spurs debate in Germany

June 3, 2018

A German appraisal that Afghanistan remains "volatile" has rekindled a row over whether to reject asylum-seekers. Bavarian CSU conservatives want more expulsions. Asylum advocates want returns fully stopped.

Afghanistan Flughafen in Kabul
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Faget

The Foreign Office appraisal made public Sunday by German news outlets said Afghanistan remained in a "tough establishment phase and, as before, in a volatile security situation" after decades of armed conflict.

Seizing on its wording, ProAsyl [Pro Asylum] said Germany's BAMF migration agency must re-examine tens of thousands of bids from Afghans previously rejected on the grounds that on return home they would find safety in alternative areas.

Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) — girding for a state election in October — on Sunday demanded a review of German policy since 2016 of expelling only those Afghans classified as offenders or as dangerous, or those who persistently hide their identities.

Contacts key to finding safety

So-called fallback options for discriminated, threatened or persecuted persons seeking safe places depended centrally on whether they had social contacts at the local level, on their ethnicity, and on their financial situation, said the situation report distributed internally to German authorities last Thursday.

Read more: Report: 12,500 Afghans facing deportation  

For women, the report said, it was hardly possible to switch to other regions without family connections. Without ethnic links, finding jobs was difficult in cities.

And the capacity of bigger centers to absorb returnees was complicated by the return of Afghans from Iran and Pakistan and those internally displaced, said the report.

Safe areas exist, claims CSU

CSU General Secretary Markus Blume insisted Sunday that Afghanistan still had "stable regions" into which "rejected asylum applicants could be returned."

"We cannot talk repeatedly about more expulsions but then set the hurdles so high that these are not possible," Blume told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Afghanistan needed "persons to work on its reconstruction," Blume asserted as Afghanistan approaches fresh elections.

Halt expulsions completely, urges ProAsyl

Günter Burkhardt, the executive director of ProAsyl – a Frankfurt-based asylum advocacy network backed by churches, civic groups and unions – demanded that Germany halt its expulsions to Afghanistan completely.

"On the basis of this new [Foreign Office] appraisal we must assume that both the rejected applications as well as the decisions to expel were groundless," Burkhardt said. The so-called alternative locations were essentially a mirage, he added.

"Great caution has to be exercised because of Afghanistan's unstable situation," said Ralf Stegner, a deputy leader of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), which forms part of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet that also includes the Bavarian CSU.

'Extremely dangerous'

Joachim Stamp, deputy premier of Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state and a member of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), slammed the CSU foray:

The situation in Afghanistan was "extremely dangerous," Stamp told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Although offenders could be sent back to some regions, Stamp said, "we cannot send families with children back to Afghanistan in the foreseeable future."

Children denied education

Sunday's debate in Germany coincided with a joint report released Sunday by Afghan Education Minister Mirwais Balkhi stating that 3.7 million Afghan children - almost half of all those aged between 7 and 17 - had no access to education.

Of these, 2.7 million were girls, and in some regions, 85 percent of girls did not attend school,  said the study from UNICEF, USAID and the Samuel Hall research institute.

ipj/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)