‘Work is work’: Afghan ex-minister now delivers food in Germany

He was once a minister in Afghanistan but quit, fed up with the corruption. Now in Germany, Sayed Sadaat is making a living delivering meals as a bicycle courier.

'Work is work': Afghan ex-minister now delivers food in Germany
Sayed Sadaat, former communications minister in Afghanistan, gives an AFP interview in Leipzig on August 29th, 2021. Photo: JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

For six hours on weekdays and from noon to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays, Sadaat dons his distinctive orange coat and big square backpack, shuttling pizzas or other orders to customers.

“There is no shame in the job at all. Work is work,” he told AFP.

“If there is a job, it means there is public demand… someone has to do it,” he said.

Sadaat is one of thousands of Afghans who have found a home in Germany over the last years.

Since 2015, when Europe saw a huge influx of people fleeing wars mostly from Syria and Iraq, around 210,000 Afghans have sought asylum in Germany.

This makes them the second biggest group of people seeking protection in Europe’s most populous country after Syrians.

READ ALSO: Germany’s evacuation operation in Afghanistan ends

With the Taliban’s return to power earlier this month, Germany has also evacuated around 4,000 Afghans, including those who worked with NATO forces and others who need protection.

‘For private benefit’

Sadaat’s journey to Germany was far less harrowing.

He was minister of communications in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2018.

But the 50-year-old said he quit his post because he was fed up with corruption in the government.

“When doing the job as a minister there was a difference between the president’s close circle and myself,” he explained.

“Their demands were for private benefit, I wanted the money for government projects to be implemented properly. So I could not fulfil their demands and then they tried to push me, put pressure on me from the president’s side.”

He took on a consultancy job in the telecommunications sector in Afghanistan – but by 2020, the security situation had deteriorated, he said.

“So I decided to leave,” he told AFP.

READ ALSO: German army evacuates more than 2,700 people from Afghanistan

As a dual Afghan-British citizen, he decided to move to Germany at the end of 2020 before Brexit made it no longer possible for Britons to obtain residency in the EU without conditions such as an offer of employment.

He could have secured a post in Britain, but said he saw more opportunities for his sector in Germany.

But without German, Sadaat, who came alone and refuses to talk about his family, said he has struggled to get employed.

Advising the government?

The coronavirus pandemic delayed his plans to learn to speak German.

But he is now taking language classes four hours a day, before getting on the bicycle for food delivery company Lieferando.

“This challenge is only for a short time,” Sadaat told AFP. Photo: JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

The job pays up to 15 euros ($18) an hour, enough for his living expenses, including rent of 420 euros a month

Sadaat said he does not regret his decision to move to Germany.

“I know this challenge is for a short time, it is until I can get another job,” he said, touting the physical benefits of cycling 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) every month. 

With the return to power of the Taliban and the withdrawal of NATO forces from his native country, he sees another possible opening for him in Germany.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is failing its Afghan helpers – out of fear of repeat of 2015 refugee crisis

“I can advise the German government on Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can benefit because I reflect the true picture there,” he said.

He admits however that no contact has yet been made with the German authorities on the issue.

As for the Taliban, he believes they may have “learnt from the past mistakes” in terms of human, women’s rights.

But he calls on the international community not to turn its back on Afghanistan and continue providing economic support.

As his shift begins at the stroke of midday, he flicks through his phone.

“I have to go now,” he says, riding off through the rain for his first delivery of the day.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Germany takes in close to 50,000 refugees in first half of 2021

Left-wing opposition calls for more to be done in second half of year for Afghan asylum seekers.

Germany takes in close to 50,000 refugees in first half of 2021
Soldiers assist a family waiting to be evacuated from Kabul Airport on August 24th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/U.S. Marine Corps/AP | Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla

Left Party politicians are pushing the German government to accept a greater number of Afghan refugees after it was revealed that the country had taken less than half of its maximum quota so far in 2021.

According to government figures, Germany accepted around 47,000 refugees in the first half of the year, while more than 11,000 were either deported or denied asylum.

The figures were revealed after the opposition Left Party put in a question to the governing coalition to interrogate its recent track record on accepting refugees.

In the coalition agreement, the CDU/CSU and SPD had pledged to create a route for up to 180,000 to 220,000 refugees to emigrate to Germany each year. 

But if the current trend continues, they would be on track to take 95,000 asylum seekers by the end of 2021 – amounting to less than half of the cap set by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. 

“In view of the worldwide increase in refugee numbers, this is shameful news, because as a rich country, Germany is thus not living up to its responsibility for refugee protection,” Ulla Jelpke, the Left Party interior spokeswoman said in parliament.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is failing its Afghan helpers – out of fear of repeat of 2015 refugee crisis

Even if Germany were to take in 50,000 particularly vulnerable people from Afghanistan, the country would still fall far short of the upper limit drawn “arbitrarily” by Seehofer, Jelpke added.

Debate over Afghan refugees

As the situation in Afghanistan grows increasingly volatile, German politicians are under pressure to offer assistance to a number of people who could be facing acts of retaliation from the Taliban for aiding Western forces over the past two decades. 

Following talks with neighbouring Uzbekistan on Monday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said that assistance would only be offered to those who had already been granted permission to come to Germany.

“We are only concerned with this group of people,” he said. 

READ ALSO: German army evacuates more than 2,700 people from Afghanistan

There are more than 10,000 Afghans on the Foreign Office’s departure lists.

These include former Afghan employees of the German armed forces or ministries – the so-called local staff – and people in need of special protection, such as human rights activists or women’s rights activists.

In addition, there are their family members. As things stand at present, there are more than 40,000 people who could potentially be taken in by Germany – provided they manage to leave the country.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, to discuss the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Uncredited

In his comments on Monday, Maas stressed that the remaining rescue operations would take some time.

“There is no time limit,” he said. “This is an issue that will keep us busy for weeks and probably months.”

On Thursday, the last of Germany’s troops and government officials pulled out of Kabul after evacuating around 5,300 people – include 3,600 Afghans. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s evacuation operation in Afghanistan ends

Announcing the end of the evacuations on Twitter, the Defence Ministry said it was not possible to extend the operations due to “security concerns”.

Over the past week, there have been a number of deadly bomb attacks in and around Kabul airport as thousands of people have struggled to make it onto flights out of the country. 

“We will continue to work to protect those who have been left behind,” the German Defence Ministry said.