Germany has suspended deportations to Afghanistan in the wake of the latest bomb attack in Kabul. Now is a good time for an open-minded assessment of asylum policy, says DW's Florian Weigand.
It has taken three major attacks in Kabul to put a temporary halt to deportations to Afghanistan: In July 2016 a bomb attack killed 80 people at a peaceful demonstration; in March, armed gunmen stormed into a military hospital in the city center killing 49 bedridden patients, along with doctors and caretakers. Still, Germany continued to deport Afghans. It was not until this latest bombing heavily damaged the German Embassy and took the lives of more than 90 people on its doorstep that the German government decided to temporarily stop the expulsions.
The government has said that the next deportation flight, scheduled to have taken place on July 1, has been canceled for "organizational reasons." The embassy, it is said, has its hands full dealing with this latest attack. That is certainly a valid reason, although one might ask why the charter flight could not have simply been rerouted to Mazar-i-Sharif. The German army's base of operations in the north has also been listed as "safe" by the government. True, the German consulate was attacked there last November, but it is currently functioning.
Whatever the real reason for the sudden decision, it creates the opportunity for the German government to take a deep breath and closely examine its current asylum policy. Reports about how unsafe Afghanistan is can be heard from many sources - be they think tanks, church groups or human rights organizations. An honest, detailed and open-minded analysis of the situation in the Hindu Kush, one which is also clearly and openly communicated, is long overdue. To date, the only thing that we have gotten from the government has been politically motivated whitewashing. No one wants to be the first to admit that the massive project of establishing "security in Afghanistan" has been a failure. It has cost a lot of money, effort and human lives, and the meager successes that may have been won are melting away little by little each day.
There has never been a better opportunity to introduce more honesty into the debate than now. A few months ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her fellow conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politicians were in a panic over this September's federal elections. There was a serious concern that the refugee issue would allow the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) to steal votes from the CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), if they failed to take a clear stance on deportations. Meanwhile, the AfD has been destroying itself with political infighting, and three recent state elections have strengthened Merkel's position. Furthermore, the current formation of a unified European phalanx opposed to the unpredictable new US president has supplanted asylum policy as the driving theme in the election campaign.
A need for action
There is a lot to analyze and systematically work through - including in Germany, where there are obviously grave deficiencies in the asylum process. Additionally, suspected former Taliban fighters have been found among normal refugees. However, they have not been immediately deported so that they may face trial here. Yet other refugees still have to board planes back to Kabul.
Germany must think hard about what sacrifices it is really willing to make - in concert with the international community - to ensure that Afghanistan truly becomes a "safe country of origin." Otherwise there will be ever more refugees knocking on our door. Incidentally, those are the same people to whom we have preached the values of freedom and democracy during the 15 years that German soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan. The problem is that they can find neither freedom nor democracy in their home country. In part, we ourselves have created the refugees that are so desperate to come to Germany. And that is exactly why we have a responsibility toward them.
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