CDU says Germany can’t repeat 2015 migrant influx over Afghanistan, Austria calls for ‘deportation centres’

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Germany cannot fix the situation in Afghanistan through a repeat of the open-door migrant policy it pursued in 2015, the general secretary of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said on Monday.

Germany opened its borders six years ago to more than 1 million migrants, many of them Syrians, fleeing war and poverty – a bold move that won Merkel plaudits abroad but which proved controversial at home and eroded some of her political capital.

“For us, it is clear that 2015 must not be repeated,” Paul Ziemiak, general secretary of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told broadcaster n-tv. “We won’t be able to solve the Afghanistan question through migration to Germany.”

The CDU is leading in polls ahead of a Sept. 26 federal election but has lost support in recent weeks. Armin Laschet, the party’s candidate for chancellor, has seen his ratings slump since he was seen laughing on a visit to a flood-stricken town.

The Greens’ candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, said Germany must take in at least 10,000 local staff from Afghanistan who have worked for the German military or other NATO countries in recent years.

Merkel told party colleagues on Monday that Germany’s immediate focus must be on evacuating up to 10,000 people from Afghanistan for whom its has responsibility, warning the fallout from the conflict will last for a very long time.

Merkel, in power since 2005, plans to stand down after September’s electio

Austria calls for ‘deportation centres’ to host Afghans

Austria, which has insisted that it plans to keep deporting illegal immigrants back to Afghanistan even as the Taliban seized Kabul, on Monday suggested setting up “deportation centres” in nearby countries as an alternative.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives have made a hard line on immigration central to their agenda, and they have won every parliamentary election since the 2015-2016 migration crisis, in which the small country took in more than one percent of its population in asylum seekers.

Austria was one of six European Union member states that warned the European Commission last week against halting the deportation of rejected Afghan asylum seekers arriving in Europe despite the Taliban’s advances. Since then, three of the six – Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands – have reversed course.

“If deportations are no longer possible because of the restrictions imposed on us by the European Convention on Human Rights, alternatives must be considered,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

“Deportation centres in the region around Afghanistan would be one possibility. That requires the strength and support of the European Commission. I will suggest it at the council of interior ministers,” Nehammer added, referring to an online meeting of EU interior ministers on Wednesday.

He and Schallenberg also suggested the meeting be expanded to include foreign ministers so as to coordinate policy on Afghanistan. Soon afterwards, however, the bloc’s foreign policy chief called a foreign ministers’ meeting on Afghanistan for Tuesday.

Kurz’s conservatives govern in coalition with the left-wing Greens, many of whom oppose continuing deportations of Afghans. At the same time, the far-right Freedom Party has accused the conservatives of false firmness, saying Austria has not deported any Afghans in two months.

Photo: People read front page news of Taliban taking over Kabul, at a newspaper stall in Karachi, Pakistan, 16 August 2021. Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar Monday declared victory and end to the decades-long war in Afghanistan, a day after the insurgents entered Kabul to take control of the country . EPA-EFE/SHAHZAIB AKBER