Germany has deported 50 Afghan refugee men to their home country after rejecting their asylum requests.
A German charter plane arrived in the Afghan capital, Kabul, from Frankfurt on Thursday, carrying out a first collective deportation based on an agreement Berlin and Kabul reached in early October.
Since the beginning of 2015, Germany has accepted nearly one million refugees from war-torn or impoverished countries, including tens of thousands of Afghan asylum seekers. According to official figures from the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), in 2016, Afghan refugees constituted the second largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians in the European country.
However, anti-refugee sentiments have been on the rise and there have been increasing demands pressed by opposition parties to curb the number of refugees.
The anti-refugee sentiments have also affected public support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, which has experienced defeats in state elections across the country. Many say Merkel’s welcoming approach toward refugees is to blame for the drop in support for the party, urging the chancellor to impose stricter controls on refugee arrivals.
The Afghan Ministry of Refugees has said that it would provide assistance to the returnees if they need help to get back to their respective provinces, adding that some 10,000 afghans had returned from Europe so far this year.
According to German media, the next mass deportation of Afghan refugees is due in early January.
Meanwhile, the then-planned deportation of the Afghan refugees prompted a protest at the Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport on Wednesday.
The pro-refugee rally drew hundreds of protesters, who chanted anti-deportation slogans and carried banners that read, “No deportation to Afghanistan” and “Solidarity instead of xenophobia and racism.”
The rally, organized by the Afghan Refugee movement, was staged to defend the rights of the deported people, with protesters and activists arguing that Afghanistan was still unsafe for the asylum seekers to return and that returnees might face reprisals.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame major European powers themselves for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people out of their homes.