Germany will pay for Afghan personnel to flee Taliban

Berlin defends giving time-limited visas to civilians who helped Nato in Afghanistan

Germany will offer more financial help for Afghans who want to escape their country after helping Nato troops fight the Taliban.

Under increasing pressure to ensure their safety, Berlin said it would cover the costs of flights to Europe for Afghan staff who could not afford the trip.

But it defended a decision to give them only time-limited visas in Germany, which raises the possibility that they will be returned to Afghanistan in future.

“Many people who are now leaving their country… are not doing this because they think Afghanistan is a horrible place,” said Steve Alter, a spokesman for Germany’s Interior Ministry.

“They are doing it because they currently feel threatened there and need protection. We can hope that the situation in Afghanistan will stabilise at some point so that people can go back.”

About 2,400 German visas were given to Afghan personnel and their families after they helped Nato troops during the 20-year war.

Many Afghans fear reprisals from the Taliban as the militants gain ground following the Nato withdrawal.

Germany completed the removal of its troops in late June, following the lead of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw American forces.

Berlin said that all Afghan personnel who sought visas in Mazar-i-Sharif, the site of a former German base, have had their applications processed.

But there were concerns that the process was too bureaucratic and many of those with visas could not afford to take up residency in Germany.

Merkel acts

A group of German MPs appealed directly to Chancellor Angela Merkel to take “moral responsibility” for the fate of Afghan staff.

Bowing to the pressure, Mrs Merkel agreed with her Cabinet that Germany would expand its financial aid to those people.

Mr Alter said Berlin would look at organising charter flights and meeting the costs of commercial flights via Turkey.

Details were yet to be finalised but “the basic decision is the important thing… that in a change from the previous policy, the costs will not have to be met independently,” he said.

Quote
We cannot solve all of these problems by taking everyone in
Angela Merkel

Europe faces calls to prepare for a new security crisis by reviewing failed asylum claims and ending deportations to Afghanistan.

EU members can reject asylum applications if they believe that people can safely move to another part of their home country.

But humanitarian groups said that European nations should not use this provision because “there is no safe area or city” in Afghanistan.

Mrs Merkel, who opened Germany’s doors to Syrian refugees at the height of the 2015 crisis, last week signalled a more cautious policy towards Afghanistan.

Many countries are in difficult positions and “we cannot solve all of these problems by taking everyone in,” she said.

Updated: July 27th 2021, 9:22 AM
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