Deterrent Effect Germans Deport Afghans to Prevent Refugee Flood

Europe is currently threatened with a wave of refugees from Afghanistan. After years of tolerating refugees who have not been granted political asylum, German authorities have started deporting Afghan nationals in an effort to deter others from coming to the country.

A victim is taken away from the site of a suicide bomb blast in Kabul in December, 2009.
REUTERS

A victim is taken away from the site of a suicide bomb blast in Kabul in December, 2009.

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It was Sept. 7, just before 8:30 p.m. when Ahmad P. decided that not living at all would be better then a life back in his home country. The 28-year-old unfastened his seatbelt on the Safi Airways plane prior to takeoff, stormed across the gangway and ran out onto the runway of the Frankfurt international airport.

A few moments later, police arrested Ahmad and dragged him into a police car. A plane lands or takes off every minute in Frankfurt and police officers say he narrowly escaped being killed.

Knowing that he was about to be deported, Ahmad didn't care about the risk. Ten days later, he was deported from Germany anyway, only this time he was escorted onto a direct flight to Kabul.

It was the end of an odyssey that had led him to Bavaria two years ago, where he unsuccessfully applied for asylum. The state has since become one of the first in Germany to begin deporting young men without criminal records back to Afghanistan. According to the Bavarian Council of Refugees, an organization that provides support for refugees, Ahmad P.'s case is the first that has become publicly known in two years. His deportation has led to a heated discussion between the interior ministers of Germany's 16 states.

Holger Hövelmann, the interior minister for the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt said he viewed the move by Bavaria as not unproblematic. "I would refrain from agreeing to a deportation to Afghanistan," said Hövelmann. "We assess the situation there as being similar to Iraq."

Attacks and Kidnappings Increasing in Afghanistan

The issue is whether Germany should be deporting people to a country that, according to the latest classified Foreign Ministry report, is one in which armed attacks, bombings and kidnappings are steadily increasing -- a country which, in the current German government vernacular, is at war. Since 2006 the security situation has sharply deteriorated there.

Back in 2005 a conference of state interior ministers agreed that deportations of refugees back to Afghanistan was possible again for the first time in years, because the country appeared to be far more stable. But even then, the interior ministers of some states expressed skepticism. The tendency of the state governments in Bremen, Lower-Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein was to tolerate the Afghan refugees and permit them to stay in the country. In informal chats after the meeting, interior ministers agreed only to deport Afghans who had been convicted of crimes. Any other deportations were to be decided at the states' discretion.

The agreement generally functioned well, with a few exceptions. Close to 3,000 people from Afghanistan are living in Germany in this gray area today. The foreigner registration offices were supposed to give precedence to deporting single men, but they often didn't take any action. In other cases, they took what seemed like an endless amount of time before issuing deportation orders to police.

The fact that Bavaria suddenly issued Ahmad P. with a deportation order was intended "as a deterrent," activists at the Bavarian Council of Refugees allege. The reason behind it, they believe, is that in 2009, the number of asylum-seekers from Afghanistan spiked dramatically. Because of a dangerous lack of food and basic supplies in Afghanistan, experts across Europe are fearing a wave of refugees from the country.

But now the state of Bavaria is sending out a message: People whose asylum applications are rejected in Germany will be deported. Kai Weber, who works for the Lower-Saxony Council of Refugees group, said that many foreign registration offices were trying to prevent what he described as a "pull effect," drawing in a wave of refugees. But officials at the Bavarian Interior Ministry said they were merely "executing" the decision that had been made back at the 2005 conference of state interior ministers.

Few Afghans Fulfil Criteria for Political Asylum

In fact, only very few of those fleeing to the West from the war in Afghanistan fulfil the criteria for political asylum. Few are politically persecuted and most are simply trying to find a better life in the West -- a future worth living. They come from a country in which armed violence and bomb attacks are the order of the day, one in which hundreds of thousands of people live on a sparse diet of bread and tea and where the health care system has collapsed or is non-existent in many places.

Ahmad P. wrote in his asylum application that he had deserted the Afghan Army, but he was unable to supply any proof. He traveled to German in a truck through Eastern Europe. His father, a poor farmer, apparently sold land in order to pay for his son to flee.

Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees rejected his asylum application in November 2009 and no effort was made to block his deportation. Officials didn't even want to admit that there was a "domestic armed conflict" in Ahmad P.'s home country -- at least not in Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, where his father's cottage is located.

At this point, nobody knows for sure where the 78-year-old farmer lives or even if he is still alive. The same holds true for the fate of his son. Workers with German refugee organizations say that Aghans deported back to the country are often threatened with kidnappings and torture because corrupt security forces want to extort money from their families.

So far, there have been no signs of life from Ahmad P. since he stepped off the airplane in Kabul.

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