What is needed now is a special programme to resettle people living in danger in Afghanistan and to give Afghan nationals already living in Germany the right to remain and prospects for their futures!
In recent weeks, there have been many calls for decisive and far-sighted political action. After all, anybody could have predicted that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would leave the field open for the Taliban sooner or later, bringing violence and repression to bear against democratic forces. There was every opportunity to take precautionary measures to protect all the people who worked and fought for a democratic Afghanistan, for human rights and women’s rights, but unbelievably, these opportunities were not taken. However, the horrifying images from Afghanistan in Kabul, the cries for help of Afghan men and women, call not for the apportionment of blame, but for all our energy to be channelled into saving human lives. Numerous organisations, citizens and policymakers at federal state and national level in Germany are repeating their calls to save the lives of as many people as possible and give them a future.
Yet, with breathtaking cynicism, a candidate for the chancellorship has stated that “now is not the time to send out a signal that Germany can effectively offer a home to everybody currently in need”. But it is actually not a repeat of the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, even though that idea has been stirred up fuelling dark sentiments lately. In fact, there has simply been no rational basis at any point for such an assumption in recent months. If Germany is to have any residual credibility, it must adopt now a special programme to receive Afghan citizens in danger. This offer of protection must be far wider in scope than the current very narrow definition of local employees – it must also include people who worked for German organisations and media alongside other people at particularly high risk. The updated US Refugee Admissions Program P2 (Priority 2) has already unambiguously included these local employees. Afghans at particular risk – human rights defenders, writers, artists, athletes, members of religious and sexual minorities – are, furthermore, referred to explicitly in the declaration of the Canadian government in which it announces its intentions of resettling 20,000 Afghan nationals.
The German federal government could and should follow these examples and put an equally generous quota on the table for a forthcoming resettlement conference. Aligning itself on and coordinating with the USA, Canada, the UK, France and Sweden and other countries prepared to admit refugees, plus the UNHCR, is essential.
The number of people who could now be saved by means of an air bridge depends very much on the political will to rescue as many as possible – and of course on the situation in airports and the capacities of the aircrafts that will have to be used for as long as flights are possible and protected. The fact that the security status for flights from Kabul airport could change by the hour is no doubt obvious to all those involved. The number of people who might be allowed to leave an Afghanistan under Taliban rule unscathed, by air or by land (corridor), will depend on the willingness of the international community to resettle them, and especially on skilful diplomacy.
In the last few dramatic days, little attention has been paid to the support mission of the United Nations in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which must also fight to stay in the country and enable a reliable monitoring of the situation on the ground. The German and European parties must also immediately pledge substantial assistance to the initial host countries in the region, to ensure that borders stay open. The same also applies to Turkey.
There is also the element of protecting the lives and securing the future of Afghan refugees already living in Germany. The ban on deportation, which came far too late, must now be explicitly combined with the right for Afghans to remain and the prospect of a decent future in Germany. According to the German Ministry of Interior, 30,000 Afghans under an obligation to leave the country can and must now be offered a future in Germany, thereby removing the existential pressure under which they suffer in the asylum procedure, and, particularly now, as a result of the situation in their home country and their concerns for the welfare of family members. Pushing through this right to remain and giving these people the hope of a decent future will undoubtedly be the job of the next German federal government.