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Attention turns to arriving refugees after Germany ends Afghanistan airlift

Debate in Germany turned towards the politically fraught issue of what approach to take with refugees as the last German…

By admin , in Europe , at August 26, 2021 Tags:

Debate in Germany turned towards the politically fraught issue of what approach to take with refugees as the last German military aircraft carrying civilians from Afghanistan landed in Tashkent on Thursday.

Germany’s evacuation operation came to an earlier than expected end after military chiefs and the government said the deteriorating security situation at Kabul airport had made it almost impossible to fly out more planes.

“People are standing as close together as bricks in a wall,” a man waiting at a gate to Kabul airport with his wife and child told the German news agency dpa. “You cannot move a single metre.”

The effort to receive, house and integrate the more than 5,000 Afghans who have made it out to Germany over the past few days is under way. Most of those who have arrived, and are receiving medical and psychological support, are reported to be contractors with the German military and aid workers – covering a vast range of roles including translators, mechanics and camera operators over the past two decades – along with their immediate families.

Across Germany, many towns and cities have signalled their willingness to take in refugees, while some communities have refused to do so, citing concerns of appearing to encourage a repeat of events in 2015. During that summer and autumn, about 1 million people arrived mainly from Syria and Iraq, triggering a nationwide effort to integrate them as well as a rise in anti-foreigner attacks.

The then fledgling anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party was able to fuel resentment towards the refugees and make considerable power gains as a result. It now has representation in the majority of Germany’s 16 states and is the leading opposition party in the Bundestag.

With a German election taking place in just over a month’s time, there is huge sensitivity over the issue of the new arrivals, with the AfD making much of the prospect of Germany facing what it is referring to as a “new refugee wave”.

In a recent statement the party leadership said it rejected the admission of refugees from Afghanistan. “The year 2015 cannot be allowed to be repeated. We cannot allow the mass, uncontrolled immigration of migrants to our country,” it said.

It has called instead for the German government to negotiate with states neighbouring Afghanistan “to consider a closer-to-home absorption of Afghans who either want to or must leave their country”.

The 266 Afghans being housed in emergency accommodation under the supervision of the German Red Cross (DRK) in the town of Doberlug-Kirchhain in the eastern state of Brandenburg have received a warm welcome, according to local media, with people donating food, clothing and toys and offering practical help.

“Many people have come to offer their support and donate things. It’s very positive,” Veit Klaue from the DRK told broadcaster RBB.

Michael Stübgen, the interior minister for Brandenburg, has said he hopes to give those arriving speedy access to both residency and work permits. “We want to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, or additional burdens for these people,” he said.

Winfried Bengelstorf, one of just under 9,000 residents in Doberlug-Kirchhain, who served as a field officer on three tours as part of the German military’s mission in Afghanistan, told RBB: “We have an obligation towards these people who worked in important roles to support the military.

“These are clever people. Most of them are educated and know the German and English language. They will integrate quickly.”

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, whose final weeks in office are being overshadowed by the crisis, on Wednesday called events in Afghanistan “a tragedy” but stopped short of admitting her government may have made mistakes, such as failing to recognise the likelihood of a Taliban takeover. “For many Afghans the developments are nothing less than a tragedy, especially for those who had worked on creating a free society, for democracy and education,” she told the Bundestag.

The German government said on Thursday it hoped to be able to negotiate further civilian evacuations once the US-led airlift officially ended on 31 August.

German media have highlighted numerous cases in which Afghans who apparently should have been among those evacuated, having worked with the military, had been left behind.

 

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