Germany has temporarily suspended group deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers in the wake of a deadly suicide attack in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul that killed at least 90 people and injured more 460.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Thursday to the provisional new security step a day after the deadly blast.
Until a new security assessment is completed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, deportations of Afghans will be halted barring exceptional cases.
Merkel’s decision does not represent a general halt of deportation procedures for Afghans denied asylum in Germany.
Asylum seekers who refuse to cooperate with German authorities during investigations into their country of origin will still be deported.
At least 67 Afghans were denied asylum in Germany in 2016.
German authorities will also continue to pursue so-called “voluntary repatriation” measures actively. Under these provisions, asylum seekers who agree to return to Afghanistan are to receive 700 euros ($790) and a flight ticket to Kabul.
At least 3,300 Afghans agreed to voluntarily repatriate themselves from Germany in 2016.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel ordered a new country risk assessment on Wednesday after the massive blast hit the Kabul’s heavily guarded diplomatic quarter, which included the German embassy.
Merkel said on Thursday that “a lesson learned from the Kabul blast is to restrict deportations to criminals for the moment”.
The German Social Democrats – Merkel’s partners in the ruling coalition – and the opposition Greens called for a complete halt of deportations to Afghanistan.
Cem Ozdemir, chairman of the Greens, said on Wednesday that the blast proved Afghanistan was not a safe country.
“If attackers can get [to the most secure area] then they can get anywhere,” he added.
The new risk assessment is expected to be released in July and may prove to be a hot campaign issue in the upcoming September general elections.
Tensions mounted on Wednesday in the city of Nuremberg as 300 people, mostly teenagers, confronted police who wanted to deport a 20-year-old Afghan man. At least nine people were injured when violent confrontations broke out as police arrived to detain him at his school.
The young Afghan man was arrested but released by a court the next day. His deportation procedures are now on halt in the wake of the government’s decision.