Germany ramps up deportations of failed Afghan asylum seekers

Afghans protesting against deportations in Berlin in May 2017 hold up photos of a bombing in Kabul.

Berlin (CNN)Late in the evening on Tuesday, July 3 a charter plane took off from Munich airport carrying 69 passengers bound for Kabul, Afghanistan.

Bavaria's Interior Ministry released a statement announcing that 51 of those on board were rejected asylum seekers and that the "lion's share of this collective repatriation" were from the southern state of Bavaria.
Most of them were "voluntary repatriations," the statement said. But that's not how 26-year-old Mursalin saw it.
    "I'm devastated. I'm worried. I'm afraid," the Afghan asylum seeker told CNN on the eve of his planned deportation flight. (Mursalin is not his real name: He asked for anonymity because, as a Christian convert, he fears retaliation if he is sent back to Afghanistan.)
      "I did everything Germany asked of me," he said. "I am no criminal. I have no links to any terror organization. I provided them with all the documents they need. My passport, documentation. And all I got was this letter telling me I would be deported on Tuesday."
      One man deported to Afghanistan on the July 3 flight has since taken his own life, according to German Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns on Wednesday. His body was found on July 10 and a police investigation into his death is underway, Neymanns said.
      After embracing hundreds of thousands of refugees in 2015, Germany is now firmly closing the door on asylum seekers.
        The southern state of Bavaria is taking the lead with the strong backing of Federal Interior Minister and former state premier Horst Seehofer, who recently triggered a crisis in government over his plans to reject some asylum seekers directly at the southern border.
        Presenting his controversial "migration master plan" in Berlin on July 10, Seehofer joked about the July 3 repatriation, smiling as he said, "On my 69th birthday of all days, 69 people -- it wasn't ordered by me -- were sent back to Afghanistan."
        Following Wednesday's news of one deportee's death, Seehofer is facing calls to resign from some opposition politicians.
        German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (C) presents his controversial "migration master plan" on July 10.
        In Bavaria, police forces are being bolstered, more asylum claims rejected and deportations ramped up, particularly for Afghans.
        On June 6, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that any remaining restrictions on deportations to Afghanistan would be lifted and all failed asylum seekers would now be eligible. Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann believes that change is the correct one.
        "Fundamentally it's clear. Anyone who has lost their asylum status has to leave. We say that unambiguously to all of those affected," Herrmann told CNN.
        "Previously, we only repatriated Afghan refugees that had been rejected at a federal level i.e. those who had committed a crime, had links to terror or refused to prove their identity. Now, we have received approval from Berlin that others can also be deported."
        "So in the days ahead we will see larger scale deportations to Afghanistan taking place," Herrmann said. "Other federal states that do not deport to Afghanistan -- we consider that to be wrong."

        'I have been a refugee my whole life'

        After refugees from Syria, Afghan nationals represent the highest number of asylum applicants in Europe, according to the European Asylum Support Office, often traveling from Iran to Turkey to reach Greece as the doorway to the European Union.
        Unlike Syria, however, Afghanistan is deemed safe enough for the repatriation of asylum seekers, despite regular bombings in Kabul and violent clashes between Taliban and Afghan government forces.