Immense pressure is applied

A statement by Sarmina Stuman, Afghan Refugees Movement. Written in spring 2021.

We members of the Afghan Refugees Movement witness what the so-called voluntary return promoted by the German government is doing to our compatriots in Germany on a daily basis. Because of McKinsey's consulting work, Afghan refugees are systematically deprived of their right to asylum by the German state. Since it apparently costs too much money and time to deport Afghans from the point of view of the federal government, and there are negative reverberations in the media about deportations to a war zone, the focus is now on a "voluntary" return based on a commissioned study by the McKinsey consultancy.

It is suggested to Afghan refugees that they have no chance of asylum in Germany. Even before they apply for asylum, they are offered a symbolic amount of money and a free plane ticket back to Afghanistan. Asylum applications from Afghans are systematically rejected. Forms for voluntary return are sent along with the rejection decision - despite the possibility of filing an appeal against the negative decision by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and even though such appeals were successful in six out of ten cases in 2020. Invitations from the immigration authorities for counselling appointments on voluntary return do not state whether these appointments are voluntary or obligatory. Such invitations have been sent not only to Afghan refugees in ongoing legal proceedings, but also to those with official recognition of refugee status. In Hesse, it is also common practice for the Regional Council - the authority that also orders deportations - to send flyers to Afghan refugees that inform them about the return programmes in a leading manner. Combined with pictures of people in handcuffs being led away by the police to a plane, for example, they arouse fears of deportation. 

By categorising refugees from Afghanistan as having "poor prospects of staying" as soon as they arrive in Germany, the responsible authorities create immense pressure on people's psyche. As a result of this classification, they have no access to German courses and have to live in refugee camps for years - as if they were in prison. Isolation and exclusion have already led to several suicides. Matiullah Jabarkhel, who had developed severe psychological problems due to years of living in a refugee camp, signed the papers for "voluntary" return out of desperation, despite an ongoing legal action against his rejection decision. Shortly afterwards, not far from his accommodation in Fulda, in a mentally unstable condition, he was shot dead by a police officer.

Those who, like Matiullah, agree to return to Afghanistan "voluntarily" are in fact returnees who leave no less involuntarily than deportees. The German government wants to use the forced "voluntary" returns to demonstrate that Afghanistan is safe, however. Because each of these departures can be used to legitimise deportations to the war zone.