Austria and Germany have been pressuring the Afghan government and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation to accept returns to Afghanistan. The pressure started building after the Ministry sent an official letter to all the European and non – European countries that regularly deport Afghans, to halt deportation to Afghanistan for at least 3 months, starting from the 8th of July.
Several countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway agreed to temporarily halt deportations to Afghanistan. However, Germany and Austria started putting unimaginable pressure on the Afghan government to ignore the current crisis and allow them to continue forcibly returning Afghans.
On July 27th 2021, Germany’s envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Jasper Wieck visited the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation to urge the Minister to allow the deportation of 10 Afghans to go ahead. He has argued that there is an upcoming election in Germany and his government needs this symbolic gesture. He has also stated that all of those included in the upcoming charter will be people with criminal records (but similar claims have been made in the past when group deportations have included people without convictions). According to sources in Germany, these deportations are scheduled for 10th of August.
Austria has been putting the same kind of pressure on the Afghan authorities to accept deportation to Afghanistan. According to reliable sources both inside Austria and Afghanistan the Austrian government has threatened to close the Afghanistan Embassy in Vienna if Afghanistan refuses to accept deportation to Afghanistan.
As a result of the pressure put on the Afghan government, MoRR has now agreed to allow 2 charter planes from Austria, the first of which is scheduled for tomorrow, 3rd of August 2021, and to accept the deportation of 10 Afghans a week later from Germany. And all of this against the backdrop of increasing violence, which has now moved to the cities.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan
Fighting has intensified all around Afghanistan, with at least half of rural districts in the hands of Taliban. Not only the smaller districts and villages, Taliban have launched attacks on key provincial capitals, such as Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Herat. Herat, the third biggest city in Afghanistan has been a battleground for the last 4 to 5 days, with residents reporting bodies lying in the streets, the Khawaja Abdullah Ansari airport (the only route in and out of the besieged city) closed and an attack on the UN compound.
In this frightening and unstable situation, when hundreds of thousands of Afghans are being displaced by the fighting, we expect countries like Germany and Austria, as they abandon Afghanistan and close their borders to refugees, to at least issue temporary protection status to Afghans already there and to allow them to seek work to try and support their families who are in crisis, as Afghan refugees have done throughout the decades.