The Netherlands will not deport asylum seekers to Afghanistan for at least the next six months, junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol told MPs on Wednesday.
In addition, no more decisions will be taken about new or ongoing applications for asylum and the deadline for dealing with these applications will be extended by a year, the minister said in a briefing.
The decision has been taken following the rise of the Taliban in parts of Afghanistan since peacekeeping forces withdrew, the minister said.
On Tuesday, Broekers-Knol was criticised by opposition and coalition MPs for signing a letter urging the EU to keep the option of deporting people to Afghanistan open.
The letter, also signed by Denmark and Austria, said that ‘stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their homes for the EU’.
Broekers-Knol did not comment on this letter in her note to MPs, nor did she mention the campaign to have Afghan interpreters who worked for the Dutch armed forces brought to the Netherlands more quickly.
Refugee organisation Vluchtelingwerk Nederland told broadcaster NOS it is aware of five Afghan asylum seekers on the deportation list and a group of around 100 people whose cases have been rejected but are appealing and who could also be sent back.
‘We would ask Broekers-Knol to quickly come up with new policy that does justice to the security situation in Afghanistan,’ the aid group said in a website statement.
‘Any Afghan sent back now is, by definition, being put in mortal danger. That is why we believe that the moratorium on taking decisions and deportations should be as short as possible, and become part of a specific policy to protect all Afghan nationals in the Netherlands.’
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