Germany and the Netherlands have temporarily suspended the deportation of Afghan refugees due to the escalation of violence in the war-torn country. The U-turn comes after both countries urged the European Commission to ensure deportations are continued.
Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister, ordered the suspension “for the time being”, spokesman Steve Alter said on Wednesday.
This comes after the Netherlands said it would stop the deportation process for six months.
Alter had said earlier on Wednesday, that almost 30,000 Afghans in Germany are currently required to leave the country. The ministry “continues to be of the view that there are people in Germany who need to leave the country as soon as possible,” Alter had told reporters.
However, the deportation of six Afghans from Germany, which was postponed last week, will not be pursued, Die Zeit newspaper reported.
Since 2016, more than 1,000 migrants have been deported from Germany to Afghanistan, the newspaper said.
Last week, six European Union member countries argued that the forced deportation of migrants back to Afghanistan must continue, despite the government in Kabul suspending such “non-voluntary returns” for three months.
In a letter dated 5 August, the interior ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands urged the EU’s executive branch to “intensify talks” with the Afghan government to ensure that the deportations of refugees would continue.
“Stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU,” the ministers wrote to the European Commission.
But many European countries now find themselves trying to balance domestic political considerations against humanitarian concerns of sending refugees back to a country sliding into civil war.
Wednesday’s announcement has been seen as a reversal by Germany and the Netherlands, following pressure from human rights organisations and activists.
“The situation in Afghanistan is likely to change, and events for the coming period are so uncertain that I have decided to introduce a moratorium on deportation decisions and departures,” said Ankie Broekers-Knol, the Dutch justice and security minister, in a letter to the Dutch parliament.
This will apply “for a period of six months and applies to foreign nationals of Afghan nationality”, the minister added.
She said that no forced return of Afghans had taken place in the past six months, and no expulsion was scheduled any time soon.
Yet, just last week, the Dutch government urged the Afghan government to continue to accept failed asylum seekers.
After twenty years of fighting the Taliban, the US-led forces have all but left Afghanistan, emboldening the Taliban to capture around eight of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in just six days.
The EU ambassadors in Afghanistan have advised against deportations to the crisis-ridden country. Many human rights and humanitarian organisations, including Amnesty International, also pleaded for the suspension of deportations of refugees to Afghanistan in a joint statement.
Additional reporting by agencies
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