February 1, 2016 / 4:17 PM / 3 years ago

Germany offers Afghanistan help to take back migrants

KABUL (Reuters) - German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere promised Afghanistan financial help to help reintegrate returned migrants during a visit to Kabul on Monday overshadowed by the latest in a series of deadly suicide bomb attacks.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (L) shakes hand with his Afghan counterpart Nur ul-Haq Ulumi after a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan February 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

De Maiziere said Germany, with some 850 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, would remain “as long as necessary” but he said an exodus of educated Afghans had to be prevented.

“The clear message that I want to send today is, ‘we will stay’ and so the clear expectation that we have for the people of Afghanistan is ‘stay here to build up this country’.”

While acknowledging the security situation was “complicated”, he said most Afghans coming to Germany were not motivated by security fears but wanted a better life.

“That is understandable from a human point of view but it doesn’t give them the right to protection,” he said.

The comment was made only hours after a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Kabul police station, killing at least 10 civilians and wounding 20 others in the latest bloody attack in the Afghan capital.

Thousands of civilians and members of the security forces have been killed over the past year as Afghan security forces have struggled to contain the widening Taliban insurgency.

De Maiziere said police cooperation would continue and Berlin would help in the fight against illegal immigration with a communication campaign aimed at persuading Afghans not to attempt to come to Germany.

The visit underlines the growing alarm in Berlin at the scale of the refugee and migrant crisis facing Germany, which took in around one million immigrants last year.

After first welcoming Syrian refugees last year, the public mood toward migrants from countries including Afghanistan has shifted, particularly after reports of widespread sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve by Arab and North African men.

Last year Afghans made up the second largest group of refugees coming to Europe, behind Syrians.

“We can only get support in Germany for the major engagement in Afghanistan if the German population has the firm impression that the youth and the people of Afghanistan have faith in their future,” de Maiziere said.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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