A special plane from Germany carrying rejected Afghan asylum seekers has landed in Kabul. What prospects do these people now have in their home country? DW examines.
The Kabul airport turned into a place of happy reunion, as the flight carrying 125 deported Afghans arrived. Disappointed and disillusioned with their short stay in Germany, many Afghan asylum seekers now want to return to their homeland.
25-year-old Sharif Ahmad, who was one of the returnees, says only Syrian asylum seekers are treated well in Germany. "We didn't have any possibility to either get an education or move freely," he said, adding that he now wants to go back to his home province of Herat and start all over again.
All those returning to Afghanistan left Germany voluntarily, according to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations. The returnees, including women and children among them, were welcomed by representatives of the Afghan government, the International Organization for Migration and the campaign "Afghanistan Needs You."
"Some returning Afghans kissed the ground while others embraced joyfully," said the campaign's director Shakib Mohsanyar. "Many were so happy to see their loved ones that they were barely able to speak."
According to the Afghan refugee ministry, over 250,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in 44 countries, including more than 150,000 in Germany.
"The move to send these people back to Kabul sends a clear message to those who are still trying to travel illegally to major industrialized countries," said Islamuddin Jurat, a spokesperson for the ministry. Although Afghanistan continues to face many challenges, Afghans - particularly the educated ones - should remain in the country and strive to rebuild it, he noted.
A new beginning at home
According to a German Embassy statement, the charter flight was only the first of more repatriation flights to come. Germany not only covers the cost of the trip back to Afghanistan, but also - in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) - provides some 700 euros to each of the returnees to help them reintegrate.
Once in Kabul, around 60 percent of Afghan returnees must continue their journey to their respective provinces. The IOM covers the cost of this second stage of the trip. Until then, they remain in guesthouses.
Given that many of the returnees sold all their possessions to pay people smugglers to take them to Germany, there are those who don't even have a home to return to. Elaha, for instance, lost all of her assets. "I now realize that I made a mistake. I also have to start from scratch here."
This is why jobs are so important for returnees - many of whom left the country because of Afghanistan's high unemployment rate. Now, finding jobs for these people has become the Afghan Labor Ministry's top priority, said spokesperson Ali Eftekhari.
"The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is working together with the World Bank to offer job opportunities," said Eftekhari. "We have set up job centers in three provinces to help skilled people find work. They will also receive financial assistance to buy the equipment needed for their respective jobs."
More returnees expected
Ali Arian, who's been living in the city of Magdeburg for some months, also wants to apply to be flown back to Afghanistan. "I failed to get a positive reply from the authorities," said Arian.
"Although I have a degree in pharmacy they told me they couldn't offer me an internship. I'm living in a fascist federal state and I just want to leave," he added. Arian said he was given no opportunity to discuss his asylum application. He argues his only options at the moment are to wait for years until his application is rejected anyway, or just leave the country now.
"Although there are no jobs in Afghanistan, it is better than here. I want to let young Afghans know that they shouldn't fall for empty promises. We mustn't expect anything from our government. Instead, we should take care of Afghanistan's future ourselves."
There are hundreds of other Afghans like Ali Arian hoping for a swift return home. Hamid Sediqi, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Germany, told DW that some 1,000 Afghans have already informed the authorities about their desire to leave Germany. "To enable their departure, the embassy and consulates are providing them with new passports," said Sediqi. In mid-2015, Germany launched a media campaign to deter Afghans from leaving their country.
Last year, Afghans made up the second-largest group of people seeking asylum in Europe, behind Syrians. In January 2016 alone, more than 100,000 migrants made their way to Europe, according to the UN. An estimated 27 percent of them are believed to be Afghans.
Additional reporting by Hussain Sirat from Kabul.