2nd Dec 2023

Germany and Netherlands halt returns of Afghans

  • The Biden administration's decision to pull out US troops have emboldened the Taliban and regional players to step into the security vacuum (Photo: The US Army)

Germany and the Netherlands have suspended forced deportations of migrants to Afghanistan due to Taliban insurgents' rapid advance in taking over the country.

It comes after Germany and the Netherlands had earlier been two of the six EU countries calling for continued forced returns in a letter to the EU Commission, despite the quickly deteriorating situation in the war-ravaged country.

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Kabul had asked the EU to halt deportations for three months due to the increasing instability and fighting in Afghanistan.

Finland, Sweden, and Norway have stopped returns.

Germany's interior minister Heiko Maas said the decision was taken due to concerns for the safety of those involved in the deportations.

Deportation of six Afghan citizens to Kabul planned for 3 August was canceled at short notice due to a bomb attack in the Afghan capital, AP reported.

Almost 30,000 Afghans in Germany, many of them failed asylum-seekers, are currently required to leave the country.

Since 2016, more than 1,000 Afghan migrants who unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Germany have also been sent back to their home country, German press agency DPA reported.

"The security situation on the ground is changing so quickly at the moment that we can't fulfill [our responsibility for the safety] of the deportees, the staff accompanying them, or the flight crews," Germany's interior minister Horst Seehofer said.

He nevertheless defended the deportations in general as "an important part of migration policy."

Seehofer added that the expulsion of convicted criminals and people considered a security threat would resume as soon as the situation allowed it.

Dutch state secretary for justice, Ankie Broekers-Knol, wrote to parliament that changes in Afghanistan were so unpredictable "that a decision was taken to impose a departure moratorium."

She said the decision was justified by "the worsening situation and the possibility to wait for a decision until there is a more stable assessment of the situation."

Last week, six EU countries, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands, argued that forced return must continue despite the situation in Afghanistan.

Belgian criticism

But Belgian Greens have also urged the coalition government led by liberal Alexander De Croo to halt returns temporarily.

Both the Flemish Groen and the Francophone Ecolo parties have also criticised the letter sent to the EU Commission on behalf of migration state secretary Sammy Mahdi.

"We want to discuss this in the government. The EU ambassadors [in Afghanistan] plea to put the returns on hold and they know the security situation of the country. That's a clear signal that we cannot ignore," Belgian Green MP Eva Platteau was quoted as saying in the De Standaard newspaper on Thursday.

Earlier, the French-speaking Socialists had also voiced disquiet over the unfolding situation, saying that there had been no consultation within the government about the EU letter, De Standaard writes.

The Taliban insurgents have made quick gains in the country, emboldened by the US decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan and end Nato's training mission there.

Afghan officials said on Wednesday the Taliban captured three more provincial capitals, with some two-thirds of the country's territory now under their control.

Afghan migrant returns unlawful, says charity

Thousands of people are being returned from Europe to Afghanistan as the country undergoes some of its worst violence in years. Amnesty International is accusing the EU of "willful blindness" for backing the returns.

Afghans' plight reignites migration fears in Europe

Several EU member states are worried that the Taliban takeover would trigger a replay of the 2015-16 migration crisis when the bloc has seen the arrival of over one million asylum seekers in a matter of months.

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