Not only are pilots helping the deportees, but migrants appealing their deportation orders in record numbers, are winning their appeals.
Since Germany lost WWII, the federal government is not allowed to directly carry on deportations. Such orders have to be passed on to state and then local authorities.
Several pilots have refused to participate in deportations, local media reported on Monday. The majority of the flights, 140, were scheduled to take off from Frankfurt, and 40 others from Dusseldorf, where #WelcomeUnited activists regularly protest against deportation of asylum applicants.
In 2017, German pilots refused to fly 222 chartered flights to repatriate rejected Afghan asylum seekers, according to Deutsche Welle.
The figures were obtained by the Die Linke, commonly referred to as the Left Party.
Some 85 of the cancelled flights were operated by Lufthansa or Eurowings, a decision taken by pilots after a controversial designation of Afghanistan as a “safe country of origin”.
The designation resulted in Afghan asylum seekers losing their entitlement to be granted refuge outside the country.
Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty defended the pilots, citing security concerns. “The decision not to carry a passenger is ultimately made by the pilot on a case by case basis. If he or she had the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse to transport the passenger,” Lamberty told Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung.
According to Lamberty, Lufthansa pilots interview some passengers who are about to be deported prior to the flight, since “they have a valid ticket after all”.
“Should security personnel at the airports have some sort of information in advance which indicates that a situation could escalate during a deportation, they can decide ahead of time not to let the passengers board.”
Germany issues the largest number of decisions on refugees. It has processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined.
According to data from the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF), the German immigration office, the country has accepted almost 170 000 asylum requests for 2017, and rejected around 210 000.
Most of the rejected cases – one in every two – have been appealed however, and of these, one in four decisions is overturned. Every second ruling made by the BAMF in the first half of the year was brought before a judge, double the number of appeals made during the same period in 2016.
Die Welt, a German daily, reported that the European statistics agency Eurostat, showed that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided 388 201 asylum cases in the first six months of 2017.
The public broadcaster NDR, reported that these appeals have cost Berlin about €19 million from January to November 2017, an increase of €7.8 million from the previous year.
In order to reduce the number of appeals and speed up deportations, the government has proposed a program to begin in February 2018 for rejected asylum seekers. They will be given 3 000 euros as an incentive to accept deportation.
But according to Amnesty International, the deportation of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan were putting nearly 10 000 people at risk of death, as the organisation maintains “no part of Afghanistan is safe, they are putting people at risk of torture, kidnapping, death and other horrors”.
Forcible repatriations to Afghanistan include children and minors.
At least one similar refusal was registered the UK earlier this year when British Airways pilot refused to take off while Samim Bigzad was on board, The Independent reported.
Bigzad, an Afghan, faced deportation to the city where the Taliban had threatened to kill him. “You’re not going to take him; I’m not flying,” the pilot said. “Someone’s life is at risk.”