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Germany ‘rejects most Afghan asylum requests in 2017’

Germany has in the span of two months rejected the asylum requests of more than half of the Afghan refugees who had traveled 7,000 kilometers in search of a better life in the European country.

Citing Interior Ministry figures, the German Passauer Neue Presse newspaper reported on Sunday that less than 48 percent of the asylum requests by people from Afghanistan had been accepted in the first two months of 2017.

The newspaper said that in January and February, the government rejected 14,403 of the 27,639 Afghan asylum applications processed.

The report came shortly after another German publication said that thousands of former Taliban militants might have entered Germany over the past two years among an influx of more than a million refugees, including tens of thousands of Afghans.

German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel said in its report on Saturday that a large number of counter-terrorism and criminal investigations had been launched in 2016, with a number of Afghan refugees being held in investigatory detention. It added that preliminary court hearings involving several other Afghans were due to start next week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has been under fire by some political quarters in the country for allowing in large numbers of refugees, especially after several criminal attacks last year by rejected Afghan asylum seekers.

Berlin reached a deal with the Afghan government in October 2016 to have rejected asylum seekers returned to Afghanistan.

In early February, Merkel, a former advocate of an open-doors refugee policy, called on authorities to accelerate the deportations of the rejected refugees. She has defended the increased deportations of such asylum seekers, saying all other European Union countries are doing the same.

Afghan security officers give directions to an Afghan whose asylum application has been rejected, after he arrived from Germany in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 15, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

A fifth planeload of Afghans is due to be deported back to Afghanistan on Monday, the German Passauer Neue Presse newspaper said.

The cost of the first four flights was estimated at 1.3 million euros (1.4 million dollars), it said, citing a government response to a query by the Greens Party.

Those costs are covered by the EU’s border protection agency, the Frontex.

Afghan refugees are the second largest group of asylum seekers in Germany after Syrians.

Europe has been experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees over the past couple of years. The asylum seekers have been fleeing conflicts and economic hardships in North Africa and the Middle East.

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