Heavy protest in German cities against mass deportations to Afghanistan

Several thousand people took to the streets in 13 German cities on 11 February to protest against the mass deportations of Afghan asylum seekers. The demonstrations criticised the current accelerated return of Afghan refugees denied asylum status in Germany. On 13 February the European Council announced that another agreement on partnership and development would be signed with Afghanistan in Bavaria’s capital city Munich the following Friday. The agreement seeks inter alia “joint management of migrations flows” and supports return and readmission operations.

According to PressTV, an estimated number of 2.000 protestors joined the demonstration in Germany’s capital city Berlin,. A similar number filled the streets in Düsseldorf. The northern city of Hamburg joined as well with a number of 1.500 protesters, according to German police estimates.

Demonstrators expressed their disagreement with the order of Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to speed up procedures for people with little chance of being granted asylum. According to DeutscheWelle 250.000 Afghans are currently living in Germany of which 11.900 were asked to leave the country from mid-December under a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Germany and Afghanistan signed in October 2016. The protesters expressed concern that people who forced to return cannot live in safety in Afghanistan. Life could not be considered as dignified under current conditions. The country, which continues to be troubled by armed conflict and under constant threat of terrorist groups, is so far not considered a “safe countries of origin” by the German Government. However, efforts are being made by the German government to change this classification and accelerated returns are justified with the outlook of curbing migration to Europe. According to DeutschWelle, this move is the result of current pressure to win votes in the upcoming federal selections in autumn this year, and is being used by Merkel’s conservative party CDU to counter right-wing tendencies in the country.

The protesters called on authorities to stop “collective deportations” of Afghan refugees whose asylum application was denied with slogans such as “stop deportation” and “no one is illegal”.  These slogans were underlined by the Refugee Council of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which initiated the demonstration in Düsseldorf and stated that Afghanistan could not be deemed a safe country. The Refugee Council cites a report of the United Nations Secretary-General released last December stating that Afghanistan’s security situation further deteriorated with intensifying armed clashes between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban. The Refugee Council drew attention to a significant rise of casualties since 2009. Last year 2.562 civilians were killed and 5.835 injured between January and September.

Germany has been carrying out collective deportations since the EU and Afghanistan agreed to intensify their corporation in addressing and preventing irregular migration in October 2016, calling it the Joint Way Forward on migration issues.

Last February German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the federal and state governments had agreed to significantly speed up the deportation of rejected asylum applicants.

Following that announcement, the media reported that another car bombing by the Taliban occurred in Lashkargah, capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, last Saturday. The attack caused the deaths of six people and with another twenty, including women and children, suffering serious injuries.

The new agreement on partnership and development between the EU and Afghanistan, is scheduled to be signed on Friday 17 February by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and the Minister of Finance of Afghanistan Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, in the presence of President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani. The agreement targets, among other things, the joint management of  migration including return and readmission operations. With this agreement, the German government will find it easier to pursue its “return and readmission” strategy of Afghan asylum seekers. This step may also encourage other EU member to pursue a policy of “collective deportations” in the near future.