BERLIN (AP) — Germany and the Netherlands have suspended any deportations of migrants to Afghanistan due to the tense security situation as Taliban insurgents make sweeping gains in the Central Asian country.
Almost 30,000 Afghans in Germany, many of them failed asylum-seekers, are currently required to leave the country.
Germany’s interior minister said the decision was taken due to concerns for the safety of those involved in the deportation. A deportation of six Afghan citizens to Kabul planned for Aug. 3 was canceled at short notice due to a bomb attack in the Afghan capital.
“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,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.
But he defended the deportations in general as “an important part of migration policy,” adding that the expulsion of convicted criminals and people considered a security threat would resume as soon as the situation allows.
The decision was welcomed by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who noted that the government of Afghanistan had previously asked Germany to suspend flights until the end of October.
“We’re doing so now now,” he told reporters in Berlin. “I think that’s right, too.”
In the Netherlands, Justice State Secretary 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.”
Germany’s Foreign Ministry is updating its new asylum evaluation report, which usually provides the main criteria for deciding whether rejected asylum-seekers can be deported. Since 2016, more than 1,000 Afghan migrants who unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Germany have been sent back to their home country, according to dpa.
Last week, six other 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 Aug. 5, 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.
The commission confirmed Tuesday that it had received the letter and would reply when ready. Asked whether Afghanistan was a safe place to forcibly send people, spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said: “It is up to each (EU) member state to make an individual assessment of whether a return is possible.”
Emboldened by the Biden administration’s decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan and end NATO’s troop training mission in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents have captured five out of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in less than a week.
Afghan security forces, which have been backed, trained and financed with billions of dollars in a 20-year-long Western military effort that included many EU countries, appear unable to cope with the Taliban offensive.
More than 1 million migrants came to Germany in 2015 looking for asylum, most of them from countries ravaged by civil wars such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Raf Casert contributed from Brussels.