With an unusual appeal for donations, the German NGO “Mission Lifeline”, an organization that is best known for its sea rescue operations for refugees in the Mediterranean, wants to help threatened Afghans obtain a passport.
At the beginning of October, almost 25,000 Afghans with admission permits were still waiting to emigrate to Germany. This was reported by the German Press Agency (dpa) a few days ago, citing an exit list from the federal government that it had.
According to a confidential report by the Federal Foreign Office on the situation in Afghanistan, the Taliban have “executed” former government employees and security forces, as well as political opponents and members of civil society.
Especially in the cities, representatives of these groups complained about a “massive curtailment of their basic rights and freedoms” and feared retaliation. There are also reports of house searches, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances.
Against this background, Axel Steier, founder and spokesman for “Mission Lifeline”, launched an appeal for donations on Twitter in order to bring threatened Afghans into possession of a passport.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Axel Steier said that he was in contact with a large number of Afghans who had been accepted by the federal government but could not leave the country.
“We receive emails every minute,” said Steier a short time later in a “Funke” interview, speaking of 17,000 inquiries from Afghanistan to the organization.
Steier points out that the situation for these people has worsened in recent weeks. Afghans could have traveled to Pakistan with identification papers other than a passport until October.
So-called verbal notes issued by the Foreign Office would have been sufficient for this. However, these are no longer accepted by Pakistan, which now requires a valid passport.
“Very few people have passports, and that can prevent them from leaving the country. On the other hand, of course, many people who currently have to hide have difficulties in getting passports without endangering themselves,” reports Steier.
“Mission Lifeline” now wants to help the threatened Afghans get a passport through donations from Germany. The organization transfers the funds to an agency in Afghanistan, which then takes care of the passports.
“The agency does this by hiring people to pick up the passports from the responsible authorities.” The applications are usually processed by officials who were already on duty under the toppled government.
In front of the counters, there were usually long queues of people waiting, some of whom were monitored and others harassed by the Taliban. The messengers hired by the agency made sure that people at risk didn’t have to walk as many ways and didn’t have to queue in front of counters. Because that would mean taking the risk of being discovered by the Taliban. “In this respect, this help is vital for them.”
The cost of obtaining a passport and plane ticket is around $800 for adults and $600 for children, according to Steier. “The federal government does not pay for all of this,” criticizes Steier: “It literally leaves people out in the rain.”
“We are in constant, intensive exchange both with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and with other international partners such as Qatar in order to enable further departures,” the Foreign Office said in a statement to DW. “These talks also raise the issue of the fact that many Afghans do not have passports.”
At present, the statement goes on to say, leaving for Afghanistan’s neighboring countries is only possible with a passport and visa. “We have taken note of rumors about opportunities to buy passes. However, since the federal government has to abide by the law, we cannot support the purchase of passports.”
When asked about Mission Lifeline’s commitment at the government press conference on November 3, spokesman Christofer Burger reaffirmed the Foreign Ministry’s fundamental interest in working with NGOs. According to Burger, as part of its efforts to help threatened Afghans, the Federal Foreign Office is also in contact with several civil society organizations, some of which have done excellent work.
There are things that a state and a government can do better than civil society. “But there are also things that civil society can do better. That is why, from our point of view, this is a welcome commitment from such groups.”
So far, almost 61,000 euros have been collected, Steier announced on November 4th via Twitter. Of course, it is unclear how long the agency will be able to offer its services. “If the Taliban notice the current gap,” says Steier, “they will close it.”
Author: Kersten Knipp
The original of this article “NGO calls for donations for Afghan passports” comes from Deutsche Welle.