Escape from Afghanistan: Responsibility does not expire

Escape from Afghanistan: Responsibility does not expire

Two years after the end of the Bundeswehr’s deployment and the change of power in Afghanistan, Germany’s balance sheet in Afghanistan is sobering: unfulfilled promises to local aid workers, a German embassy at the limits of its capacity, allegations of abuse of power in connection with the federal admissions program, which got off to a rocky start anyway.

The traffic light had actually set itself clear goals in its coalition agreement: the prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe and the creation of a functioning admissions program. There remains a great need for action in the traffic light coalition’s Afghanistan policy.

And this despite the fact that after the change of power in Kabul, Germany was initially a pioneer when it came to humanitarian aid. The Federal Republic took in around 30,000 Afghans at risk, most of whom were local workers. In addition, the federal admissions program was launched in October 2022 after a lead time of almost a year.

The program should take in up to 1,000 particularly vulnerable Afghans per month. Little has happened since then. Although around 40,000 people at risk have been reported to the responsible body, only 229 people have been given the prospect of being admitted.

Nobody has been able to enter Germany so far. In addition, the program is on shaky ground after unconfirmed allegations of abuse.

The reasons for the delays in entry are well known and have often been publicly criticized by civil society organizations. Access to the program is too restrictive, only pre-approved organizations can submit cases.

70

percent of Afghanswho have received protection status in Germany have only received a ban on deportation.

The admission criteria for the program are also too narrow. Afghans who have had to flee to neighboring countries are excluded. In addition, the recently announced UN resettlement program for Afghan refugees from Pakistan is starting too slowly.

The procedure for admission in the Federal Republic is non-transparent, there are no objections or legal remedies. And even a positive decision does not mean that entry into Germany will be permitted. To do this, a lengthy, bureaucratic process must first be gone through, including a security interview in neighboring Pakistan.

The German embassy in Pakistan is increasingly becoming a bottleneck here. The embassy is responsible for all procedures related to the admission program. In addition, thousands of people have been waiting here – usually for years – for an appointment to apply for a family reunification visa.

Family reunification only in exceptional cases

Afghans in particular could benefit from the equality of the right to family reunification if this were extended to people with a ban on deportation via the easier access promised in the coalition agreement for those entitled to subsidiary protection.

Because of the almost 37,000 Afghans who received protection status in Germany in 2022, the vast majority (26,500 people, approx. 70 percent) were only granted a ban on deportation. This allows family reunification only in exceptional cases. The German state often prevents many Afghans from reuniting with their families for years or even completely.

Two years after the change of power in Afghanistan, the window of public attention to Afghanistan is closing. In view of the humanitarian emergency in the country and the many people seeking protection, decisive action by the Federal Government is therefore more necessary than ever. In order to implement the promises made in the coalition agreement, she has to deliver.

Focus on the lives of vulnerable people

To this end, as agreed in the coalition agreement, it should stick to the plan to improve the local staff procedure, for example by taking into account people who are at risk because of their work for German institutions without a direct employment contract.

In addition, it should also ensure better data accessibility and transparency, because up-to-date information must be available in order to be able to successfully support those seeking protection. Furthermore, it takes strong political will to assume responsibility towards vulnerable Afghans.

This is necessary in order to implement the federal admissions program and resettlement projects as announced and to speed up and digitize family reunification and other visa procedures. Bureaucratic hurdles must be removed. Without these improvements, the federal government will not be able to fulfill its self-imposed obligation to put the lives of vulnerable people at the center of its policies.

If it is successful, the traffic light can send an important signal of global solidarity for people in crisis regions around the world. It should be worth the trouble along the way.

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