Human rights group accuses Germany of mistreating rejected Afghan asylum-seeker

A European watchdog raised concerns after German police allegedly squeezed the genitals of an Afghan deportee. While deportations are professionally conducted, there is room for improvement, the rights committee said.

The Council of Europe's anti-torture committee on Thursday accused German police of mistreating an Afghan man who was being deported after observing that police squeezed the man's genitals and choked him.

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"To ill-treat a person by squeezing the genitals, a technique which is clearly aimed at inflicting severe pain to gain compliance, is both excessive and inappropriate," the council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said in a report.

Read more: Is Germany reassessing its role in Afghanistan?

Deportee 'struggled to breathe'

The report focused on an August 14, 2018, charter flight that carried 46 Afghans from Munich to Kabul on behalf of the EU border agency Frontex after their asylum requests had been denied.

Three CPT representatives were also on the flight, along with about 100 German police officers, six of whom restrained the Afghan man.

The deportation was largely conducted in a professional manner, the report said, but two men resisted being sent to Afghanistan and were placed in handcuffs and leg restraints to be brought on board the plane, the report said.

When one of the men continued struggling with police in the plane, one officer pushed his arm against the man's neck so "the returnee started struggling to breathe" while another taped him to his chair, squeezing the Afghan's genitals several times, the report said.

"The CPT considers that any use of force must avoid inducing a sensation of asphyxia on the person concerned," the report said.

Read more: Elin Ersson and Ismail K. — How an activist tried in vain to rescue an asylum-seeker

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Germany should 'take immediate action'

The CPT recommended that German authorities "take immediate action to end the application of these two techniques by Federal Police escort officers."

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In its response, Germany said it had forwarded the recommendations to federal police to take action.

Rejected asylum-seekers need time to face deportation

The 34-page CPT report criticized the short amount of time rejected asylum-seekers sometimes have between their application being denied and their deportation. The committee said it was essential people have time to psychologically process their situation, even if they are being held in custody pending deportation. The CPT said failed asylum-seekers sometimes received less than a week's notice of their impending deportation.

Read more: Afghanistan: Sent back to a war zone

Bavarian authorities replied that people in custody did not need to know the exact date of their deportation because the fact they were in custody made clear they would soon be expelled.

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Building a life in Germany despite threat of deportation

The CPT also called it "concerning" that seven people were returned to their homelands between 2017 and 2018 even though their legal appeals of the deportation orders were still pending

The decision to expel Afghan people is controversial due to the levels of violence and unrest in Afghanistan.

In 2016, Germany and Afghanistan signed an agreement on the expulsion of Afghans whose asylum requests have been rejected.

The CPT is responsible for ensuring that the process is free from acts of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Fleeing war and poverty

In late 2014, with the war in Syria approaching its fourth year and Islamic State making gains in the north of the country, the exodus of Syrians intensified. At the same time, others were fleeing violence and poverty in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Niger and Kosovo.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Seeking refuge over the border

Vast numbers of Syrian refugees had been gathering in border-town camps in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan since 2011. By 2015, with the camps full to bursting and residents often unable to find work or educate their children, more and more people decided to seek asylum further afield.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

A long journey on foot

In 2015 an estimated 1.5 million people made their way on foot from Greece towards western Europe via the "Balkan route". The Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free travel within much of the EU, was called into question as refugees headed towards the wealthier European nations.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Desperate sea crossings

Tens of thousands of refugees were also attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats. In April 2015, 800 people of various nationalities drowned when a boat traveling from Libya capsized off the Italian coast. This was to be just one of many similar tragedies - by the end of the year, nearly 4,000 refugees were reported to have died attempting the crossing.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Pressure on the borders

Countries along the EU's external border struggled to cope with the sheer number of arrivals. Fences were erected in Hungary, Slovenia, Macedonia and Austria. Asylum laws were tightened and several Schengen area countries introduced temporary border controls.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Closing the open door

Critics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's "open-door" refugee policy claimed it had made the situation worse by encouraging more people to embark on the dangerous journey to Europe. By September 2016, Germany had also introduced temporary checks on its border with Austria.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Striking a deal with Turkey

In early 2016, the EU and Turkey signed an agreement under which refugees arriving in Greece could be sent back to Turkey. The deal has been criticized by human rights groups and came under new strain following a vote by the European Parliament in November to freeze talks on Turkey's potential accession to the EU.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

No end in sight

With anti-immigration sentiment in Europe growing, governments are still struggling to reach a consensus on how to handle the continuing refugee crisis. Attempts to introduce quotas for the distribution of refugees among EU member states have largely failed. Conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere show no signs coming to an end, and the death toll from refugee sea crossings is on the rise.

law/sms (AFP, AP, DPA)

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