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KABUL: An Afghan man deported from Germany has been found dead in a hotel room in Kabul after commi­tting suicide, officials said on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old man, who has not been identified, was forcibly returned to the Afghan capital on July 4 along with 68 other failed Afghan asylum seekers.

He had been staying at a hotel used by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) as temporary acco­m­modation for returnees while he waited to go to the western city of Herat. His body was found on July 10. A police investigation into his death is under way, but an IOM official said the man had “apparently” committed suicide.

The IOM issued a statement calling for “assisted voluntary return and reintegration” instead of deportations.

“Forced returns carry the stigma of failure, can encourage unsafe re-mi­g­ration, and increase risks and hardships for the returnee,” the IOM said.

A spokesman for the immigration office in Hamburg, where the man had been living since 2011, said he had been convicted of a number of crimes including theft, resisting arrest and drug law violations.

‘69 deported on 69th birthday’

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the bloody conflict that has been raging since 2001, making the issue of deportations from Germany and other European countries highly controversial.

Germany itself is deeply divided over the issue.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced a strong backlash over her decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to a mass influx of migrants, many from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, that led to more than one million arrivals.

She cited the risk of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in explaining her policy, and her government has since returned to a more restrictive stance.

In 2016, Berlin signed a deal with Kabul to repatriate Afghans who had failed to obtain asylum, and began expelling people in December 2016.

So far this year, 148 Afghans have been deported from Germany, official figures show. Some of the deportees have spent most of their lives living outside of Afghanistan.

More Afghans are likely to be deported after Merkel’s shaky three-party coalition agreed last week on a tougher migration policy that will reduce the number of asylum-seekers in the country.

Arch-conservative Interior Minis­ter Horst Seehofer had threatened Merkel with an ultimatum to curb arrivals, sparking the worst political crisis of her government of just barely 100 days.

On Tuesday he drew scorn after a news conference on his migration policy with a quip about the latest deportation flight.

“It was on my 69th birthday of all days — and I didn’t even order it — that 69 people were returned to Afghanistan,” he said with a smile. “That’s far more than usual.”

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018