Germany Pauses Afghan Deportations After Blast But Policy Stays

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will not send failed asylum seekers back to Afghanistan in the next few days after a blast killed at least 80 people in Kabul, a German interior ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, but the policy of mass deportations remains in place.

Responding to fears among German voters about the influx of more than a million refugees since the summer of 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in December began mass deportations of Afghans.

The policy has drawn criticism from human rights group who argue people are being sent back to a dangerous country.

“The employees (at the embassy in Kabul) have an important logistical part to play in receiving the deported people .. they cannot carry out this job properly so soon after the attack,” said an interior ministry spokesman.

“Therefore there will be no collective deportations to Afghanistan in the next few days,” he told reporters.

Among the roughly 350 injured in the explosion from a bomb hidden in a sewage tanker in the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital were two German embassy employees. An Afghan security guard there was killed and the building was also badly damaged.

“But it is and remains the case that deportations must be carried out according to our laws. This principle applies to Afghanistan, especially for criminals, and we will continue to go down this path,” the spokesman added.

Afghans were the second largest group of asylum seekers in Germany after Syrians last year and four months before an election, Merkel wants to make sure voters think she has the migrant crisis under control.

Rights groups and some Greens and radical Left party lawmakers called for an end to the deportations.

Amnesty International welcomed the government’s decision to halt flights in coming days but said it was reminder of how dangerous the situation was in Afghanistan.

“The German government must now rethink its assessment of Afghanistan. Deportations are not justifiable with the current security situation,” its German branch said in a statement.

German officials said they were constantly reviewing security in Afghanistan. They recognised the situation was volatile and varied from region to region.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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