Germany to Send Afghan Asylum Seekers Back Home

The majority of Afghan asylum seekers in Germany will be sent back home, the German interior minister announced this week, marking a hardening of government attitudes towards those entering the country.

Afghan asylum seekers who are not fleeing areas held by the Taliban or affected by fighting, will be sent back to the country, Thomas de Maiziere announced at a news conference held in Berlin on Tuesday, according to AFP. The move will not affect asylum seekers who are at risk from the Taliban, who will still be granted asylum.

Afghans made up more than 20 percent of the 560,000-plus people who have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency, something de Maziere described as "unacceptable." He said talks had been held with the government in Kabul to put a halt to the influx, saying Afghans should "stay in their country."

Up until now, Afghans who have had their asylum application rejected by Germany have not been deported because of the uncertain security situation in their home country. According to the Telegraph newspaper, they are allowed to remain in the country but are in a state of legal limbo and are not allowed to work.

De Maiziere said that many Afghans seeking a new life in Germany are members of the middle class who come from the Afghan capital Kabul, considered to be a safe area. These people "should remain and help build the country up," the interior minister said.

Earlier this year, a British judge postponed a flight of 56 rejected Afghan asylum seekers from the U.K. after the Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation warned that 80 percent of the country was not safe to send people back to, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Tens of thousands of migrants from the Balkans, deemed to be safe countries, will also be returned home by the end of the year, de Maiziere said, who vowed to speed up the application process. "I expect that in the coming weeks, the number of deportations and of voluntary departures will rise significantly," he said.

The change in the German government's refugee policies reflects a hardening of attitudes towards the new arrivals, as the Chancellor Angela Merkel finds herself under increasing pressure to crack down on the numbers of migrants and asylum seekers entering the country. Reports suggest that Germany expects up to 1.5 million asylum seekers this year alone.

Earlier this week, Horst Seehofer, the conservative leader of Bavaria, demanded that Merkel limit the number of refugees allowed into Germany, and recent polls have shown that public support for Merkel has slumped to a three-year low.

De Maiziere also lashed out at Austria during his speech, accusing the neighboring country of driving asylum seekers over the border under cover of darkness. "We observed that refugees, without warning and after dark, were being driven to the German border without any provisions or forethought," he told the news conference. "There were intensive contacts. Austria agreed yesterday to return to an orderly process. I expect this to occur immediately."