Germany moves to deport 50 Afghan asylum seekers, refugee group says
BERLIN | About 50 Afghans who had their asylum bids in Germany rejected were being deported on Wednesday, a prorefugee group said, as the government works to reduce the number of migrants remaining in the country.
A plane with the deportees on board was set to leave Frankfurt airport Wednesday evening, refugee group Pro Asyl said. Hundreds of protesters chanted slogans at the airport’s departure terminal asking to have deportations to Afghanistan halted.
After allowing in 890,000 migrants last year, Germany has sought to manage the influx by speeding up the asylum process for the applicants most likely to receive it, such as Syrians fleeing civil war. Authorities in turn have accelerated the expulsion of those unlikely to qualify for asylum, such as people seeking to escape poverty in the Balkans.
Afghans have fallen somewhere in the middle, with some areas of the country considered safe and some not. But few have been deported because Germany lacked a proper agreement with Afghanistan. Instead, many have been convinced to go home voluntarily with financial incentives.
But the German and Afghan governments signed a memorandum of understanding on deportations a few weeks ago, paving the way for the several dozen who were to be sent home on Wednesday night.
Germany has tried to convince rejected Afghan asylum seekers to leave voluntarily by offering financial incentives upon their return home. Some 3,000 asylum seekers returned to Afghanistan this year as part of the repatriation program, Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said.
Only 18 Afghan citizens were deported in the first half of 2016, according to government figures.
More than 12,500 Afghans have received orders to leave the country, but have not yet been deported.
Critics say sending people back to Afghanistan puts them in danger because of the Taliban’s control of some parts of the country and frequent suicide bombings. The German government claims that migrants only will be sent back to safe regions.
Sweden, which has been another top European destination for migrants, deported 11 Afghans earlier this week, police spokesman Mattias Lindholm said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in recent weeks that Germany needs to toughen its stance and ensure that migrants who are refused permission to stay do leave the country.
“We need a national effort to return those who are rejected — that is undisputed and we are working on that at present with great vigor,” Ms. Merkel told a conference of her conservative bloc’s youth wing in October.
The majority of the migrants who arrived in Germany in 2015 were from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The country has been grappling with the integration of the many newcomers and hostility toward migrants has been on the rise. This year, the number of asylum seekers has declined sharply, with some 230,000 people having arrived in the country by the end of September.
A German refugee group says that some 50 Afghans were being deported on Wednesday to their homeland after being rejected as asylum seekers in Germany. The plane was set to leave Frankfurt airport Wednesday evening, Pro Asyl said.