BERLIN: Germany has temporarily suspended the group deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers following the Kabul truck bomb attack, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

The foreign ministry would reassess security in the country next month, and until then Germany would carry out only “voluntarily repatriations and deportations of violent extremists and criminals in individual cases”, she said.

Germany said the previous day it had postponed a scheduled deportation flight of rejected Afghan asylum seekers after the truck bomb killed at least 90 people and wounded hundreds.

The bombing in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter killed an Afghan guard at the German embassy and wounded two embassy staff, one of them German, the other one Afghan. Germany, Europe’s most populous nation, has taken in over one million asylum seekers since 2015, the peak of the massive influx of mostly Middle Eastern refugees and migrants to the continent.

While it has generally granted safe haven to people from Syria, Germany has increasingly been sending back Afghans, arguing that much of their country, where the German army has helped stabilisation efforts for years, is safe.

Between December and March, Germany sent back a total of 92 Afghan nationals on several charter flights to Kabul, accompanied by over 300 police, according to government figures provided to parliament.

The deportation policy for Afghanistan has however been highly controversial, and the debate intensified after this week’s attack.

Refugee rights group Pro Asyl demanded that such deportations be scrapped for good, arguing that Afghans must not be sent back to “a country that cannot protect civilians”.

Some 200 students staged a sit-in at a vocational school in Nuremberg on Wednesday and clashed with police who came to detain for deportation a 20-year-old Afghan student who had been in the country for over four years.

Police used batons and dogs, and three officers were injured, but they eventually managed to detain the student, reported public broadcaster BR, adding that the student speaks German and had been offered a job.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2017

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