‘Lives in danger’: Dozens of Afghan ex-workers block Bundeswehr base, demand asylum in Germany

Camp Marmal, the German Army’s largest overseas base, has reportedly been blocked by dozens of Afghan ex-workers, who say they fear for their lives after working for the Bundeswehr. They are demanding asylum in Germany.

As many as 150 people are protesting at the gateway to Camp Marmal, a German-run military base in the north of Afghanistan, Spiegel magazine reported. The men, who were once employed as interpreters, security guards or kitchen workers, are there for the third week in a row.

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Camp Marmal is the army’s largest military base outside of Germany. Located near Mazari-Sharif International Airport, it is home to the staff of the German contingent as well as additional personnel from Croatia, Georgia, Mongolia and other states. At peak times, the base has accommodated as many as 5,000 NATO and allied troops.

Having blocked entry to the camp, the defiant Afghan demonstrators told the magazine that their former employers have effectively left them behind and broken a promise to grant asylum them asylum in Germany. The ex-workers are feeling threatened – or have actually been threatened – by the Taliban, according to Spiegel.

“We want to go to Germany,” Zalmai Nikbin, one of the protesters, told the magazine. “Our lives are in danger here.” He said that he worked for several years as a military interpreter, helping German soldiers to liaise with the locals.

Spiegel reports that the Afghans’ applications to enter Germany have been rejected because the Defense Ministry identified “no specific danger” threatening the locally hired staff. In two cases, only “a latent threat” was found, and this did not result in entry permits being issued by the German Interior Ministry.

Previously, German policy in relation to visas for Afghan staff was less strict. In recent years, over 760 former Afghan employees were brought to Germany with their families due to fears of persecution by the Taliban. Not all of these had been employed by the military – some worked for German development agencies, as well as the Interior and Foreign Ministries.

Stories of Afghan interpreters being abandoned by their NATO employers are not uncommon. Many local staff have fought for the right to be given resettlement packages in the US, the UK and other states for which they worked, but only few succeeded. A number of interpreters have been pursued and even killed by the Taliban, which views them as collaborators in the Western “occupation” of Afghanistan.

The Spiegel article comes as the Taliban continues to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and contest government control over various swathes of the country. As recently as September, the militant movement seized eight police outposts in northern Afghanistan amid renewed fighting between the Taliban and government forces. 

Brazen attacks on Afghan troops also allowed militants to contest the city of Ghazni, located some 150km from Kabul. The assault on Ghazni was the group’s largest offensive of the summer, and analysts predict that the Taliban is now at its strongest since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. 

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