Last week Mr Mahdi sent a letter to the European Commission in which he called for the possibility to be retained to send back Afghans that “really didn’t require any protection”. Mr Mahdi said that forced repatriations should remain an option.
Since then, the situation in Afghanistan has radically changed. “We need to ensure that everyone that is fleeing from war and persecution can be offered protection wherever he or she ends up”, Mr Mahdi told VRT News.
As cases in Belgium can be (re)assessed on a case-by-case basis Mr Mahdi says that there is no need for a general moratorium on repatriations like that that has been announced by the authorities in The Netherlands and Germany.
“When each case is assessed individually, today it is clear that the situation in Afghanistan is terrible and that you can’t decently sent someone back to somewhere where he or she would end up in a region where they don’t feel safe”.
Mr Mahdi added that as our system is different to that in some neighbouring countries there is no need for it to be modified to take into account the changed situation in Afghanistan. “This is simply a decision not to send anyone back to a region where it is unsafe. This is not a decision that has been taken today, but a decision that Belgium has been taking for decades”.
He went on to say that it isn’t the Secretary of State, but rather the Commissariat-General for Refugees that decides whether a person can be repatriated safely.
When asked about the Afghans that had helped the Belgian Army while they were on their mission in the country (people such as interpreters), Mr Mahdi said than one family had come to Belgium on a humanitarian visa. Decisions on humanitarian visas are taken at the discretion of the Secretary of State. All other cases of this nature are currently being examined by the Defence Department.