Accessibility links

Breaking News

Germany’s New Program to Take in At-Risk Afghans Challenging

FILE - Children stand behind a fence in a hangar as they wait for their departure at the Ramstein US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, Aug. 30, 2021.
FILE - Children stand behind a fence in a hangar as they wait for their departure at the Ramstein US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, Aug. 30, 2021.

Germany’s announcement that it will take in 1,000 at-risk Afghans with their families from Afghanistan will be challenging, an Afghan lawyer says, because it is becoming increasingly difficult for Afghans to leave Afghanistan.

In a joint statement, the German Foreign and Interior ministries announced the new humanitarian admission program on Monday.

“The plan is to approve around 1,000 Afghans at particular risk, along with their family members from Afghanistan for admittance every month,” said the statement.

“It is going to be very challenging,” said Abdul Subhan Misbah, former deputy head of Afghanistan’s Lawyers Union who has been involved in the efforts to evacuate judges and prosecutors from Afghanistan, adding that “it is not clear who would be included, and it won’t be easy to take people out of Afghanistan that is ruled by the Taliban.”

The German government said that the new program would evacuate at-risk women’s and human rights activists, former government officials, and civil society members. The program also includes those persecuted in Afghanistan because of their gender, sexual orientation, and/or religion.

Misbah said that many employees of the former government and members of civil society want to leave their country.

“Most of the people want to leave,” he said. “What are the criteria based on which people will be admitted? How are they going to help those at risk to get out of Afghanistan? These questions have to be answered.”

Besides the problems they face to get passports and visas, he said, Afghans must travel to a third country because there are no direct flights from Afghanistan to Germany.

“It should be something that the German government has to negotiate with neighboring countries to facilitate the process,” Misbah said.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Christopher Burger, told VOA that his government is working with the neighboring countries to help with the process.

“We will continue to work through all channels available to us in order to assure safe passage to the people that we want to bring to safety,” he said.

Germany has admitted 26,000 Afghans since Kabul fell and the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

Burger said to implement the new program, German authorities would work with organizations already on the ground and involved in helping at-risk individuals leave the country, but the German government would make the final decision on who is the “most vulnerable and most in need of admission to Germany.”

Local contractors

Burger said the program will continue until October 2025 and does not include 12,000 former German contractors who are “officially granted admission” to Germany but are still in Afghanistan.

“Simply, we are not able to bring people outside the country. They do not have a passport,” Burger said. “We are working with the neighboring countries on achieving that.”

He added that a “larger group” of Afghans had “some sort of association” with German organizations in Afghanistan and “are still in the proceedings to be recognized as former German contracts.”

Axel Steier, the founder of the German-based civil society organization Mission Lifeline, told VOA that his organization runs several safe houses for those who worked with the German government.

He added that these local contractors fear for their lives.

Steier said that “the Taliban want to kill them, and [we are] keeping them into safe houses and waiting for a decision from the German government to take them in.”

Difficult to leave

The German government said that Afghans who have left Afghanistan would not be considered under the new humanitarian admission program.

“So, this is a big issue,” said Steier, adding that many at-risk Afghans left Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power. Most of the individuals are staying in Pakistan, Iran or Tajikistan and are unable to return to Afghanistan.

He added that it is difficult for people to get passports and visas to leave the country.

“And for both, you need a lot of money. Because you can get a passport only if you pay $1,200 to $1,500,” he said. “Also, it is very difficult to get [a] visa for Iran. At the moment, it costs $500.”

“For people who are poor ... [and have no] money for stuff like a passport or visa, it is almost impossible to come [to Germany],” Steier said.