19. June 2023- 3 min read
The German Government’s decision to pause the transfer of Afghans with admission approval to Germany happened overnight. Families who had appointments at German Embassies and had already embarked upon the dangerous journey of leaving Afghanistan were abandoned overnight. The chaos and uncertainty that has ensued has echoes of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
At-risk Afghans with a disability have been especially affected. Human rights defender, Sara*, and her family travelled to Iran to attend a German Embassy appointment days before the stop was announced. Their interview was cancelled shortly after. Sara and her family members suffer from severe disabilities and have been seriously impacted by the delay, her brother, Sayed, who already lives in Germany explains.
“Now my family are stuck in Iran… They cannot leave the hotel in Iran now [because of delays to the programme] their Iran visas have expired and they are now illegally in Iran. This is the biggest problem on a daily basis.”
People with disabilities are especially disadvantaged
In addition to their illegal status in Iran, the family are stranded at the hotel because of their disabilities. “[My family] need special support to accommodate their disabilities. The children cannot go to parks or any place… and cannot go to any lessons. They are losing their education.”
Sara’s family are worried and they find the uncertainty of the situation psychologically very difficult. GIZ have promised to transfer them to Pakistan but “the date of transfer to Pakistan is not known and the problem of their [Iran] visas” remains an issue for their day-to-day activities and for travel to Pakistan.
Sara has worked her whole career for a human rights organisation in Afghanistan, advocating for the rights of women and girls with disabilities in Afghanistan, supported by foreign organisations. Her neighbours told the Taliban of her work and the Taliban began to search for her.
Uncertainty around the new security procedures
Her brother, Sayed, is very worried about them and the new security interviews that the German Government will introduce. “It is not clear about the new security interviews… if they lose their admission and have to go back to Afghanistan, I am worried the Taliban will kill them, especially because the Taliban will know they have been waiting in Iran for a foreign visa.”
However, Sayed also supports the improvement of the selection procedures of Afghans at risk. “There is a need for a good interview process and better selection of cases. The real problem is the delay this has caused.”
Sayed knows of another human rights defender, Dawood* in Afghanistan who was granted admission but whose case is since under review. Dawood also suffers from severe physical disabilities. “He was called for transfer without a passport… but the next day the (person) calling did not answer his calls… Now he does not know about his case and is stuck in Afghanistan… He cannot go to the hospital for medical care because of the high risk he faces.”
The improvements made by the German Government need to better identify people most at risk and including people with disabilities, like Dawood, argues Sayed. Persons with disabilities may also be at risk for their work, but often face additional challenges accessing the programme and during the processing of their case.
KLB has been calling for the German Government to open up the federal admission programme to individual applicants to provide better access and also to an improved and transparent selection process.
Sayed is lucky as he reached Germany before the stop and now aims to study a masters degree and then work to support migrants with disabilities arriving in Germany. “I faced many problems when I arrived in Germany… For (migrants) with disabilities, they must find their own way to enter society. It is my dream to help them with this.”
But it weighs heavily on his mind that Sara and her family are stuck in limbo. He hopes they will have a bright and safe future in Germany, away from persecution and wants them to thrive with the support available to persons with disabilities that is not accessible in Afghanistan.