German states signalled that they are preparing to accommodate thousands of refugees from Afghanistan.
The most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia wants to take in 1,800 people from Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban, DPA reported on Wednesday.
According to the state chancellery in Düsseldorf, this would include 800 local Afghan workers who have worked for Germany in recent years. Another 1,000 spaces are planned primarily for women in the fields of civil rights, arts and journalism.
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Taking in refugees is a tricky topic in Germany after the 2015 influx that saw Chancellor Angela Merkel embark on an ‘open-door policy’ for migrants, sparking the rise of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) on the political stage.
With a federal election weeks away, conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet said on Sunday that: “2015 should not be repeated”.
Wir müssen noch in dieser Woche eine erste gemeinsame europäische und transatlantische Antwort geben. Die Fehler im Umgang mit dem syrischen Bürgerkrieg dürfen nicht noch einmal gemacht werden. 2015 soll sich nicht wiederholen. 3/6
— Armin Laschet (@ArminLaschet) August 15, 2021
It came as German rescue flights took around 500 people out of the country, from over 15 countries, including about 200 Afghans.
The rescue mission has been slammed for happening too slowly – and the first German military flight out of Kabul on Monday had only seven people on it.
But foreign nations are working round the clock to get their citizens and Afghans who worked with them out of the country.
Uzbekistan said it was helping Germany to transport its diplomatic staff via Tashkent.
Which other regions are offering refuge for Afghans?
The southern state of Baden-Württemberg expects to take in up to 1,100 local workers and their relatives from Afghanistan.
Lower Saxony will initially provide at least 400 accommodation places in the state’s initial reception facilities.
Talks were underway between the federal government and the states on further spaces, according to the interior ministry in Hanover.
Previously, Bremen announced it would offer up to 150 places for local Afghan workers and their families. “Leaving them behind and now handing them over to the Taliban is out of the question,” said interior senator Ulrich Mäurer (SPD). “We can talk about the allocation formula later.”
Schleswig-Holstein is getting ready to take in 300 women and children.
Hamburg has offered to accommodate at least 200 of those affected – the first were expected in the Hanseatic city on Wednesday.
Several Bavarian cities also declared their willingness to take in people: Munich said it could offer 260 people shelter at any time without red tape and had already signalled this to the federal government, said mayor Verena Dietl (SPD).
Similar offers came from Nuremberg and Regensburg, among others. Erlangen’s mayor Florian Janik (SPD) said his city could take in 10 families at short notice.
Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland were also open in principle to taking in families, but did not yet give any concrete figures.
In Schwerin, for example, reference was made to the allocation formula according to which Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania would take in about two percent of refugees.
Some states mentioned the logistical hurdles. For example, half of the five reception facilities in Rhineland-Palatinate are already occupied – and full occupancy is not possible because of the Covid pandemic, the government said.
It came as the German cabinet approved a mandate for up to 600 soldiers to be deployed to Kabul to help with the evacuation mission. The mission will cost around €40 million, reported DPA.
So far, the US has taken out roughly 3,200 people on 13 flights but around 11,000 US nationals remain, AFP reported.
Britain was leading the European exodus, with more than 300 nationals flown out so far along with more than 2,000 Afghans.
“UK officials are working round the clock to keep the exit door open,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.