‘For the past three days, I cannot eat or sleep. I am just thinking about my family and what might happen to them’

BERLIN — Sami Salim, 20, is preparing Kabuli Pulao in the kitchen of Safrani restaurant, in Charlottenburg, Berlin where he works. His hands work busily to make food for the customers. But since the news of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, Salim has grown anxious. For the seventh day in a row, he is not able to get in touch with his family back in Kabul.

“I have not spoken to my family for a week because the internet has gone down,” says Salim, who has been living in Berlin for five years after fleeing Afghanistan. “I don’t know if they are alive. My parents are there, my two sisters and brother. I don’t have words to describe how I am feeling.”

Salim is one among 271,805 people of Afghan descent living in Germany. Most of them have family members trapped in the country. They are living in angst about when they will next be able to reunite with their loved ones.

“It is my one wish for my family to be here with me,” Salim says, solemnly.

Well-known for having an open-door policy for refugees, Germany has the largest Afghan population in Europe. It was one of the first countries to welcome over a million people escaping the war in Syria. In 2015 alone, half a million people applied for asylum in Germany in 2015, and another 750,000 the following year.

While Merkel once set the bar in 2015 and 2016, all eyes are on Germany as Europe prepares for a new influx of refugees.

Many of Germany’s Afghan residents are desperately praying that the government will react in the same way since the Taliban returned firmly to power.

Some are living in hope. Dr. Hussain Yasa, an Afghan journalist who has been living in Munich since the 1990s, says that Germany’s previous relationship with refugees in the region has been positive. With an uncertain road ahead for Afghanistan, he says that Germany’s support is critical.

Experiencing life under the Taliban in the 1990s, Yasa fears that little has changed. “My family in Afghanistan are very afraid,” he said. “They do not know what will come in the coming weeks. I can’t see that the Taliban have changed their views on anything. But they are just playing their cards more smartly.”

Elahe (in the middle) stands with her friend and mother, who have been living in Germany for six years after fleeing Afghanistan. They say they want the German government to help their country.

Elahe (in the middle) stands with her friend and mother, who have been living in Germany for six years after fleeing Afghanistan. They say they want the German government to help their country.

Bring them here

On 17 August 2021, thousands gathered at Platz Der Republik, outside parliament in Berlin to urge the German government to evacuate those in danger and open the borders for refugees.

“I came here with my mother because we want the government of Germany to help us,” says Elahe, 15. “My aunts are still living there, and we are scared for them. We know that women will soon have no rights. The situation of twenty years ago will come back.”

Elahe says her mother believes that now she may never return to her birthplace. “My mother wanted to go back to her country. The homeland is like a mother – and every child needs the mother. But now it is not safe, and it might not be for a long time.”

Outside the Afghanistan embassy in a leafy suburb in Berlin, people rush in and out, as they try to make sense of the last 72 hours.

Sabira Rassei, 31, waits with her two children outside of the embassy, clutching her passport documents.

“For the past three days, I cannot eat or sleep. I am just thinking about my family and what might happen to them,” says Rassei. “My whole family is in Kabul. I spoke with my sister this morning and she said she saw the Taliban cut the hand of a young girl. We are pleading for the German government to bring people here.”

Earlier this week, it was reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel said that those needing evacuation included 2,500 Afghan support staff, and thousands of others for whom Germany has responsibility.

However, a representative on the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that some Afghan staff who worked with Germany’s army in the north of the country could be left behind as the journey out of Afghanistan has become challenging.

While these rescue missions are underway, some feel that Germany’s reaction has not been strong enough.

“The German government bears direct responsibility for the local workforce, which collaborated with the German troops. Many of these Afghans are now under immediate threat,” explains Fabian Scheidler, a Berlin-based historian. “It is an outright scandal that the German administration has not had any evacuation plans for these people before leaving the country.”

Scheidler says that as an immediate measure, the government should grant permanent residence to all Afghan refugees.

Before Germany suspended deportations to Afghanistan earlier this month, the Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said that nearly 30,000 Afghans in Germany were required to leave the country.

The future looks grim

The government faced more criticism earlier this week after it was revealed that a German plane left Kabul with just seven people on board. However, since then Deutsche Welle has reported that more than 260 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the German army so far.

While Germany’s reaction to the crisis is still unfolding, the call from Germany’s Afghanistan residents is clear – the country should evacuate those in need and grant them asylum.

“The future is dark. People want to leave and go to the neighbouring countries, but the borders are not open for Afghan people. It is a terrible situation,” shares Mohammed Nori, 35, an Afghanistan resident who has been living in Germany for four years. “All of us feel the same. We just want to be reunited with our families.”

Source: TRT World

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