Protesters assembled at Berlin airport's Terminal 5 late Wednesday to speak out against a deportation flight of asylum-seekers whose claims were denied to Afghanistan that evening. Around 350 people showed up to the protest, exceeding estimates of 50 to 75 people.
The demonstrators carried signs calling on the authorities to cancel the deportation flight, with some protesters blocking access roads to the airport. The protests were organized by the Brandenburg Refugee Council and ended after the plane left for Afghanistan.
Twenty Afghan men later arrived in Kabul on the German flight on Thursday morning. It is the 38th deportation flight to Afghanistan since December 2016 when the policy began, with a total of 1,035 Afghan rejected asylum-seekers having been sent back.
Why are refugee rights groups calling for an end to deportations to Afghanistan?
The protests come as German refugee rights organization Pro Asyl this week called for an end to deportations to Afghanistan. The group has cited the precarious security situation in Afghanistan, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, as reasons why the deportations should cease.
Germany resumed deportations to Afghanistan in December of last year, after they were temporarily suspended in March 2020 amid the first wave of coronavirus cases.
Deportation flights to Afghanistan are a hot subject of debate among German political parties. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union, has been a proponent of the deportations, while Green Party MP Claudia Roth has called for an end to the practice due to the level of violence in Afghanistan.
Are asylum-seekers still coming to Germany?
Official data showed the number of asylum-seekers to Germany fell 30% in 2020 over the previous year as the pandemic spurred lockdowns and border closures. There were just over 76,000 first-time asylum applications last year, with the majority of asylum requests from nationals of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2016, Germany saw over 700,000 first-time asylum requests, with more than 400,000 first-time applications the previous year during the peak of the refugee crisis.
wd/sms (dpa, AFP)