Hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan who sought sanctuary in Germany have been evicted following the arrival of a large number of Ukrainians fleeing the on-going conflict in their country.
According to a report by Foreign Policy last week, many Afghans have received eviction notices from German authorities, with some given just 24 hours’ notice.
“The evictions purposefully weren’t publicised. Some people had lived in their homes for years and were ripped out of their social structures, including children who were moved to locations far from their respective schools,” said Tareq Alaows, a board member of the Berlin Refugee Council.
According to the report, the eviction decision was made by Berlin’s Senate Department for Integration, Labour, and Social Services who said it was “based on operationally necessary and difficult considerations” and that there is no alternative because Ukrainians, including many women with children, needed a roof over their heads and a bed.
“We regret that this caused additional hardships to the Afghan families [and that] the affected people had to move out of their familiar surroundings and now possibly have to keep up with their social connections with great difficulty,” said Stefan Strauss, the department’s press secretary.
He added that Berlin had a total of 83 different accommodations for refugees, already housing some 22,000 people. However, with the influx of Ukrainians this needed to be consolidated to a few defined arrival centres to simplify processing.
Strauss said evicted Afghans were given other “permanent” accommodation of equivalent quality, excluding shared bathrooms and kitchens.
However, social workers have voiced frustration over the government’s treatment of Afghans, as refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
The report added that most people seeking refuge in Germany enter the asylum system, which grants them temporary residency that is re-evaluated every six months. “Depending on the situation in their home country, extensions, and eventually asylum, are often denied.”
In the case of Afghans who arrived in Germany after the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, most skipped this process entirely, immediately receiving three-year residency permits.
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and after opening its borders in 2015 to people mostly fleeing the conflict in Syria, Germany became Europe’s biggest host country for refugees, numbering over 1.24 million. Today, it has been replaced by Poland which has taken in 2.8 million Ukrainians so far.