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Deportation, the German passion

The hotel “Spinzar” is located in the heart of Kabul. Close to the busy main street is the old bazaar, the Baghe Omumi Bridge and the famous “Mosque of the Two-weight King”. Many people walk past the hotel without paying attention to the building. It seems inconspicuous and somewhat run-down, like many other buildings in the area. Literally translated, “Spinzar” means “white gold”, but there is nothing of it, at least today. Everyday life in the “Spinzar” seems a bit dull. A security guard sits bored in front of the entrance. Visitors, which are rare, he hardly felt. The receptionist is busy with his cell phone. Sometimes he calls guests who are asked about. The Lobby, with the dusty furniture is mostly empty. The dining room looks unused.

This is where deported refugees from all over the world land several times a week. In the last few days alone, deportees from Germany, Austria and Iran checked in at the “Spinzar” – involuntarily. The hotel is the first step into the new, old life of the deported Afghans. It is no coincidence that you end up here of all places. Spinzar has been working with IOM (International Organization for Migration) for about five years. Many of the" guests " are not real travelers, but desperate people who do not have a point of contact in Kabul. After the refugees land at Kabul airport, they are practically forced to stay at the hotel – or on the street. That this usually ends unsightly, is now known. “A few years ago, a young man killed himself in the Hotel after his deportation. Many people first noticed what was going on here,” says a bookseller whose booth is next to the “Spinzar”. He feels sorry for those Afghans who are being deported. “I would also like to leave the country together with my family. However, we cannot afford to flee,” he says.

The hotel benefits from the cooperation with IOM. Nevertheless, it does not want to downplay the problems of the deportees. “We do not support your deportation. They took great risks to escape from the war. The fact that they are brought back in the end is also painful for us,” says Jawed Noori. He has been working as a receptionist in “Spinzar” for eleven years. According to him, most of the refugees who have stayed at the hotel in recent weeks and months come from Germany and Austria. Noori says that many of the deportees have psychological problems and often become addicted to drugs. “They can’t handle the situation and are stunned. We then have to take her to the hospital or pick her up from there. The responsibility lies with us. There is usually no one else,” he says. Another dramatic scene occurred a few days ago when a bloodstained deportee showed up at the hotel crying. According to his own statement, he was beaten at the airport by German officials. “He had a wife and child in Germany and was simply forcibly put on the plane. Shortly afterwards, it became clear that the man had been mistakenly deported. He is now back in Germany. This is totally crazy and inhumane,” says Noori.

In recent months and years, suicide attacks and other bombings have also taken place near the hotel. After all, not far from the “Spinzar” lies the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions and military facilities, which regularly become the target of militant groups. Such attacks usually only affect civilian infrastructure. “There has been no attack on the hotel yet, but we all experience terror every day. He has become part of our everyday life,” says the hotel’s chef. Another problem in Kabul is the high crime rate. Meanwhile, there are gangs of thieves who specialize in deportees. “It is assumed that the deported refugees have at least an expensive smartphone and cash. In addition, you can quickly recognize them by their clothes or hair style,” says Zalmay*, who was deported from Austria about three years ago and spent a few nights in Spinzar. After that he found a place with some acquaintances near Kabul and tried a “restart” with the IOM money-several hundred euros. But he has failed and continues to be threatened by those people from whom he has fled. Meanwhile, Zalmay is planning the next escape. He wants to travel to Pakistan soon. “Since Europe does not want me, I am forced to build a new life there for the time being,” he says.

The night in the “Spinzar” with food costs 1,000 Afghani, just over ten euros. IOM pays the bill, but the difference is deducted from the money, a kind of “jump-start”, that the deportees receive from the organization after their return. As a so-called" voluntary returnee", you get more money than those who were brought back completely involuntarily. By and large, however, it is only about a few hundred euros – and you can’t get far with them anyway.

“We are as helpful as possible, but our hands are tied,” says hotel Manager Abdul Karim Rahimzai. He took over the" Spinzar " about three years ago. The hotel has had many owners in recent decades. It was built in the middle of the 20th century and once belonged to the Spinzar Cotton Company, which was founded in the 1930s by the Afghan State Bank. At that time, the “Spinzar” was still state-owned. Rahimzai has met many deportees since the takeover. It does not support the actions of the responsible governments. “Of course there is war here. Afghanistan is one of the deadliest countries in the world. Do you think I’m here of my own free will?“he asks sarcastically.

Then he tells of a deportation case, which he will probably never forget again. In late summer 2019, a young man arrived at his hotel who could not speak Persian or Pashto and “did not look at all like an Afghan”. He spoke Russian and German and according to his own statement was Chechen. “This person did not belong here. Everyone noticed this immediately. But due to some bureaucratic mistakes, he was deported to Afghanistan,” says Rahimzai. The Chechen, who was called Yusuf, spent several weeks in Kabul. When he ran out of IOM money after a few days, Rahimzai allowed him to stay at the “Spinzar”. “Where else would he go? I considered him a stranded guest and helped him as far as I could,” he recalls. After Yusuf’s mental state deteriorated and the facts were clear, the Afghan authorities were forced to send him back to Austria. His case has not yet been solved and makes clear the large gaps in European refugee policy.

Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network, criticizes the deportations to Afghanistan. “Germany and Austria claim that they are targeting criminals. However, media research such as by the NDR or by refugee councils in individual cases shows that these are often at most petty criminals, sometimes also with penalized penalties. Deportations as de facto punitive measures are both legally and factually flimsy, " he says. According to Ruttig, the information policy of the federal government and the participating European authorities is sparse and patchy. “This shows that they have something to hide. Only the worst examples are always highlighted, such as men who have been punished for sexual offences. In the public consciousness, this extends to the whole group,” he adds.

The precarious security situation in Kabul and in many Parts of Afghanistan, is a consequence of the uncertain future prospects for Afghanistan’s government. Just under a year ago, the US signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in the Gulf Emirate of Qatar. The number of soldiers of the remaining US force has since shrunk to around 3,500. Violence in the country continues to escalate. According to the UN, at least 3,035 Afghans were killed and 5,785 others injured in 2020. Most of the victims were the Taliban. In recent weeks and months, targeted attacks on journalists, activists, religious leaders and other public figures have increased. The Kabul government is also held jointly responsible for the escalation. In the meantime, they are deported anyway. In 2016, the EU signed a deportation deal with the Afghan government, which was Recently renewed.