With a backlog of more than 350,000 asylum applications, Germany is under pressure to speed up the asylum process. But efforts to quickly process Syrian refugees have resulted in asylum decisions on the basis of nationality rather than case-by-case. That’s good for Syrians, but it shortchanges Afghanis and others fleeing violence and conflict.
An Afghan doctor wearing a tracksuit stands on the muddy ground inside a temporary registration shelter for asylum-seekers in the western German state of Baden-Württemberg, waving a paper flyer announcing German classes. “Why not us?” he asks.
The full-time class was being offered to Syrians, Iraqis, Eritreans, and Iranians, but Afghans and other nationalities were not mentioned. The discrepancy points to a new multi-tiered approach in how Germany is processing asylum-seekers—one based at least initially on national origin.
In a particularly chaotic year for migration to Europe, Afghans represent the second largest group of migrants traversing the Mediterranean Sea, after Syrians. But though their country is riven by fighting with the Taliban and other armed groups, they have received a different welcome. Instead of fast-tracked applications and pledges to make integration a top priority, Germany is labeling them as economic migrants and telling them to stay home.