KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A group of 34 Afghan asylum seekers returned home on Thursday after being deported from Germany the day before, an official said, a move that was made possible after a recent Afghan-Germany deal to stem the influx into the European country.
The plane carrying the deportees — all young men without families — landed in Kabul around 5 a.m., said the Kabul airport chief of police, Mohammad Asif Jabarkhil.
Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, told reporters in Berlin that about a third of the men had been convicted of crimes in Germany, including rape, manslaughter, assault and drug offenses. Fifty were scheduled to be on the plane but in six cases courts intervened in the last minute on appeal, and 10 "irritatingly" went into hiding, de Maiziere said, promising unspecified consequences.
Many of the deportees expressed disappointment, saying they had lived and worked in Germany for years and were now forced to come back without any job prospects.
"I am not happy, everything is different for me here," said Sidiq Kuchai, a 23-year-old from northern Baghlan province who was in Germany for seven years. "I had a good job and was working in a restaurant in Cologne. But in Afghanistan, I have no job and no security."
The memorandum of understanding that Berlin and Kabul recently signed is part of Germany's efforts — after allowing in 890,000 migrants last year — to manage the influx by speeding up the asylum process for the applicants most likely to receive it, such as Syrians fleeing civil war. In turn, German authorities accelerated the expulsion of unlikely candidates for asylum, such as people seeking to escape poverty in the Balkans.
But Afghans fell somewhere in the middle, with some areas of the country, like the Kabul area for example, considered safe and some not. Until now, few were deported with many instead being convinced to go home voluntarily with financial incentives. Some 12,500 Afghans in Germany have been ordered to leave the country and officials concede that deportations alone will not suffice.
German officials said the deportation was considered a successful pilot project, and was part of a Europe-wide initiative to begin returning Afghans whose asylum had been rejected. The EU recently also signed an agreement with Afghanistan that mirrors the German agreement, and Sweden deported a dozen Afghans earlier this week.
De Maiziere said deportations and voluntary returns are a key part of managing the huge influx of asylum seekers to the country last year, in conjunction with accelerating granting asylum and integrating those whose cases are most likely to be approved, like Syrians fleeing their country's civil war. He called them "two sides of the same coin."
"Such deportations are justified and important for our asylum system to function," he said.
At the Kabul airport on Thursday, some deportees — such as 24-year-old Mohammad Khan who said he had spent 10,000 euros ($10,500) to get to Europe and had lived in Germany for almost six years — complained over the behavior of the German police.
"Two days ago, two policemen came to my home and said, 'Let's go on a picnic,' and took me to the deportation center," he said. "The next day, I was brought to the Frankfurt Airport.
Bitter about his fate, Khan said that if he can't find a job, he would join the Taliban.
Afghan ministry of repatriation's media adviser Hafiz Ahmad Meyakhil defended the deportation, saying it was done under a proper agreement and according to law.
"The Afghan government has the obligation to provide shelter and better life for its citizens," Meyakhil said, but warned that as long as there is instability in Afghanistan, European counties need to brace for a further influx.
"We also have 92,000 internally displaced this year from the fighting in our country," he added.
"Syrian refugees have more of a chance than Afghans," said Ali Hussain, 22, who was deported from the city of Dortmund.
There were a few happy faces in the group, including 22-year-old Matiiullah Azizi from Kabul who said that after seven years in Frankfurt, he was glad to be home.
"I love Afghanistan, it's my country," he said.
Rising reported from Berlin.