Germany, Netherlands halt migrant expulsions to Afghanistan
Germany and the Netherlands said Wednesday they have stopped forced repatriations of Afghan migrants because of deteriorating security in Afghanistan, as the Taliban pressed on with its rapid advance in the country's north.
"Due to current developments in the security situation, the interior minister has decided to suspend deportations to Afghanistan for the time being," Germany's interior ministry spokesman Steve Alter wrote on Twitter.
Separately in The Hague, Dutch State Secretary for Justice and Security Ankie Broekers-Knol announced a "moratorium on (deportation) decisions and departures."
The halt "will apply for six months and will apply to foreign nationals of Afghan nationality," she wrote in a letter to the Dutch parliament.
Wednesday's move by the Germans and Dutch marked a sharp U-turn from their previous position.
Officials had said as late as Tuesday that both governments had joined their counterparts in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Greece to write to the EU's executive arm saying they should be allowed to press on with expulsions of Afghan migrants if their asylum bids fail.
Afghanistan urged the EU in July to cease forced deportations of Afghan migrants for three months as security forces battle the Taliban offensive ahead of the full US military pullout from Afghanistan on August 31.
"We are now complying with this request, which I consider to be the right thing to do," Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas said of Kabul's call.
As a deportation flight had to be stopped in recent days because of fighting in Kabul close to the airport, Maas said a decision had to be quickly made on whether to resume the flight.
Austria maintains expulsions
Neighbouring Austria however said it would press on with expulsions to Afghanistan.
"Austria is keeping to its plans for deportations. A de facto suspension of deportations is currently not up for discussion," a spokesman for the interior ministry told AFP.
The Talibans have in recent days made huge advances in the north, capturing territory including provincial capital Kunduz -- where German soldiers had been deployed for a decade until the end of June.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had voiced disappointment at the developments.
"The reports from Kunduz and from all over Afghanistan are bitter and hurt a lot," she wrote on Twitter on Monday.
Northern Afghanistan has long been considered an anti-Taliban stronghold that saw some of the stiffest resistance to militant rule in the 1990s.