LONDON: Germany has moved hundreds of Afghans from temporary government housing to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, The Independent reported on Wednesday.
Over the past decade, about 630,000 Afghans applied for EU asylum, with Germany accepting some of the highest refugee numbers in Europe.
The German government said the evictions in Berlin were taking place because the Afghan families had been using short-term arrival centers.
But Tareq Alaows, a board member of the Berlin Refugee Council, said some of the Afghans had been evicted from housing that they had used for years.
“The evictions purposefully weren’t publicized,” he added. “Some people had lived in their homes for years and were ripped out of their social structures, including children who were moved to locations far from their respective schools.”
Alaows told Foreign Policy magazine: “Few people’s living conditions improved, but most were afraid to speak up, afraid it could impact their immigration status.”
He said the blame does not lie with Ukrainian refugees, but there is a difference in their treatment and how authorities handled the Afghan refugee influx.
“The last months showed that different treatment of refugees is possible, and this needs to be systematically anchored in our society,” he added.
Berlin’s Senate Department for Integration, Labor and Social Services cited “operationally necessary and difficult considerations” as a basis for the evictions, and said there was “no alternative” due to Ukrainian arrivals needing immediate shelter.
Stefan Strauss, the department’s press secretary, said: “We regret that this caused additional hardships to the Afghan families and that the affected people had to move out of their familiar surroundings, and now possibly have to keep up with their social connections with great difficulty.”
He added that the German capital hosts about 22,000 refugees in 83 accommodation centers, but that Ukrainian arrivals need to be housed together for processing purposes. He said the evicted Afghans were provided with equivalent housing elsewhere.
Germany has officially admitted 160,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24.
However, the real figure is thought to be much higher due to visa-free access between the two countries and lack of checks on the German-Polish border.