German students clash with police over deportation of Afghan refugee (VIDEO)

At least nine police officers were injured as violent clashes between students and police broke out in the German city of Nurnberg when a group of students spontaneously tried to block the deportation of an Afghan fellow learner.

The incident occurred as a police van carrying the Afghan student tried to leave the grounds of a vocational-technical school located not far from Berliner Platz in Nurnberg. At first, a group of some 20 students attempted to block the vehicle by staging a sit-in strike on the road leading out of the school grounds. 

The spontaneous protest was soon joined by other students as well as by some people passing by. The crowd of protesters grew to 300 people in several hours, the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports, adding that after that the protest grew violent.

Protesters pelted the police officers, who arrived at the scene, with bottles and even “threw bicycles” at them, a spokesman of the regional police department told the German media. The police used pepper spray and batons on demonstrators.

Nine police officers were injured in the violent clashes, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports, citing police sources. Three protesters were detained during the incident. No demonstrators were injured, according to German media.

“Over time, more and more people joined the crowd, including sympathizers as well as just onlookers. Police repeatedly called on the people to disperse for several hours… but the protesters did not comply [with these demands] and refused to clear the road forcing [police] to engage,” Bert Rauenbusch, a spokesman for the regional police department, told Bavarian Radio.

Police managed to disperse the protesters and clear the road for the van carrying the detained Afghan student. However, the regional authorities called off his deportation later Wednesday and the refugee, 20, was released after questioning, Suddeutsche Zeitung reports.

In the meantime, the people apparently opposing his deportation convened another spontaneous demonstration via social networks. Some 100 protesters marched through the city towards the local office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The second protest was peaceful and no clashes were reported.

According to the Bavarian Refugee Council, the refugee had lived in Germany for four years, while the vocational school’s teachers described him as a “well integrated, hard-working student.”

Meanwhile, the local office of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) sharply criticized the actions of the police, as well as the general practice of deportations. The Social Democrats denounced “taking students from a school” as an “absolutely unacceptable” approach in dealing with the issue.

“Young refugees must feel secure at school. Otherwise they will not attend lessons at all out of fear. It would be fatal for our integration efforts,” Thorsten Brehm, the head of the local SPD office, told Bavarian Radio.

In the meantime, the German Interior Ministry said that failed Afghan asylum seekers would not be sent back to Afghanistan in the next few days following a blast in Kabul that claimed lives of at least 80 people.

At the same time, the ministry also said that the policy of collective deportations of illegal Afghan migrants remains in place.

"The employees (at the embassy in Kabul) have an important logistical part to play in receiving the deported people… they cannot carry out this job properly so soon after the attack," the ministry’s spokesman said, adding that “there will be no collective deportations to Afghanistan in the next few days," Reuters reports.

"But it is and remains the case that deportations must be carried out according to our laws. This principle applies to Afghanistan, especially for criminals, and we will continue to go down this path," the spokesman also said.

Last year, the German government decided to accelerate the deportations of failed Afghan asylum seekers. In November 2016, German media reported that the government planned to repatriate more than 12,500 Afghan refugees.

According to the media reports, 27 rejected Afghan asylum seekers were deported from Germany in 2016, compared to nine in 2015. At the same time, nearly 247,000 Afghans had arrived in Germany by the end of September 2016, according to a German Interior Ministry document seen by Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung.

The German government also developed a plan to accelerate the process of deporting failed asylum seekers, including establishing special “departure centers” and more financial aid for those deciding to leave voluntarily following the December Berlin terrorist attack.

However, the government’s plans are facing resistance from some regions mainly governed by Social Democrats, as well as the representatives of the Left and the Green parties. Officials in Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Bremen and Rheinland-Palatinate expressed their opposition to the idea of accelerating deportations to Afghanistan in February.