Concern over 'caged' Afghan evacuees in Germany

Authorities criticised for using asylum camps with barbed-wire fences to house refugees

After escaping Kabul, some of the Afghans airlifted to Germany have been sheltered in much-criticised asylum facilities fenced off by barbed wire.

The so-called “anchor centres” were introduced in 2018 to process asylum seekers and house them until they are admitted or deported.

Activists have described poor living conditions in the camps, with concerns about privacy and tensions between residents and police.

One of the camps is in Bamberg, southern Germany, on the site of a former US Army base. Nearly 100 Afghans have been housed there since the fall of Kabul.

“Our willingness to help seems to end at the barbed-wire fences of the anchor centres,” said the Bavarian Refugee Council, an advocacy group, which criticised the use of the camps.

It described them as places of limited medical facilities and “marginalisation through checks, fences and steel gates”.

“We unfortunately have to expect that this will not allow people to recover from the terrible events of recent weeks, but rather lead to further trauma,” the council said.

Another activist group called the Centre for Political Beauty mocked the state's efforts to welcome Afghans, saying: “Thanks for your help, welcome to Bavaria, here is your cage!”

Visiting the centre, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said some Afghans at the camp had already had their asylum applications approved.

Others are waiting for a decision. Germany suspended deportations to Afghanistan shortly before the fall of Kabul.

Officials said the state government was doing its best to provide accommodation and would “do everything” to integrate the new arrivals.

“There cannot be any talk of us reaching the limits of our capacity to take people in,” Mr Herrmann said.

Germany’s government has been criticised for failing to rescue more of its Afghan staff in the months before the fall of Kabul.

About 2,000 evacuees have been airlifted to Germany, but about 600 people who worked for Nato forces are still thought to be in Afghanistan.

“We are doing our utmost to bring them to safety,” Germany’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Refugees will be given an initial three-year residency permit, which could be renewed if they are still thought to be in danger.

The permit allows them to work in Germany, get social security payments and send their children to schools and kindergartens.

The anchor centres were agreed in a coalition deal that followed the 2017 general election in Germany.

The election saw the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party surge into parliament in a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policies.

A report by Germany’s Migration Ministry this year said the camps had helped to make the asylum process more efficient.

Asylum seekers with children are not meant to stay at the camps for more than six months, while adults can stay for up to two years.

Updated: September 2nd 2021, 10:21 AM
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