The admission program for endangered Afghans is to start again after three months. 14,000 people who have been accepted are now waiting for their visas – it will probably take a long time for their cases to be processed.
At the end of March, the federal government temporarily stopped the issuing of visas and the entry of particularly vulnerable people from Afghanistan via the federal admission program. The way to Germany was blocked for three months for human rights activists, opponents of the regime, members of persecuted minorities or employees of the government that fell in 2021.
Reason for the temporary stop: security concerns after references “to possible attempts at abuse in the context of the ongoing admission procedures from Afghanistan,” according to the Federal Foreign Office at the time.
The program is now starting again today, said a ministry spokesman NDR Info. As an additional security measure, all applicants are questioned intensively for several hours by experts from German security authorities in the German embassy in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
1480 people are waiting in Pakistan and Iran
Visas are only issued if the result is positive. First it is the turn of those who had to wait in Pakistan or Iran because of the suspension of travel. For the interviews, however, those eligible for admission from Iran’s capital, Tehran, must first be brought to Islamabad.
At the end of May, 1,480 people were waiting in both cities, according to the Foreign Office NDR Info. The exit support for the 12,600 people who have been accepted into Afghanistan is to follow. According to the Federal Foreign Office, those affected are informed and supported by a service provider on behalf of the Federal Government about how to proceed in each individual case.
A maximum of 1,000 people per month can travel to Germany through the federal admissions program. This figure includes those at risk and their relatives. The SPD, Greens and FDP agreed in the coalition agreement and started the program in October 2022. So far, however, no Afghans have come to Germany. Aid organizations and the opposition in the Bundestag assume that the backlog of more than 14,000 people who have already been accepted for admission will only be processed very slowly.
No staff in Islamabad yet
The Federal Ministry of the Interior replied to Clara Bünger, a member of the Left Party, last Wednesday that “no staff from the security authorities had yet been sent to Islamabad to conduct security interviews.” At the request of the MPs or the NDR respond.
The “Business Insider” portal had initially reported only five surveys per day. The Foreign Office did not want to comment on the number. However, the capacities should be steadily expanded.
“The new security checks are crazy,” says Bünger. They continued to massively delay the admission of those at risk. “People don’t have time. They have to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible so as not to fall into the hands of their pursuers. It’s also anything but safe in Pakistan at the moment.”
In his blog, Afghanistan expert and former diplomat Thomas Ruttig calls the delays in the federal admissions program a “declaration of bankruptcy for the federal government, whose interest in Afghanistan has been limited since it began engaging in Afghanistan in 2001, although it repeatedly pointed out that as a troop-sending country and donor of development aid had mostly ranked second or third worldwide”.
Axel Steier from the refugee aid organization Mission Lifeline sees no evidence of the alleged abuse of the visa process, which justified the three-month suspension of the program. “The federal government is simply using the murmuring to at least slow down the legal immigration of people from Afghanistan.”
Most of the Afghan families waiting in Pakistan and Iran cannot return to Afghanistan because of latent danger or concrete threats from the Taliban and have no livelihood in Pakistan. Among those waiting are people who have been threatened with death by the Taliban, such as Afghan politician Feroza Ahmadzai. For ten years, the Pashtun woman had campaigned for women’s rights in the council of the Afghan province of Logar.