A Joke by Horst Seehofer Highlights Deeper Tensions in Germany

Published July 12th, 2018 - 10:23 GMT
Horst Seehofer joked about the coincidence of deporting 69 migrants to Afghanistan on his 69 birthday.
Horst Seehofer joked about the coincidence of deporting 69 migrants to Afghanistan on his 69 birthday. (Twitter)

Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer is facing a fierce backlash over joking about 69 deported Afghan migrants on his birthday, which coincides with his 69th birthday.

On Tuesday, Seehofer presented his migration "master plan" to the press, a month after it was blocked by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The plan is to deport Afghans who failed to obtain asylum. So far in 2018, Germany has deported 148 Afghans to areas it considers safe.

In a press conference, Seehofer’s joked: "It just so happens that on my 69th birthday, without any orders from me, 69 people were sent back to Afghanistan."

What Seehofer did not realize is that few hours before the time he was speaking, one of the Afghan migrants committed suicide by hanging himself in one of the temporary camps of the Afghan capital.

He was later identified as 23-year-old Jamal Nasser Mahmoudi and his death was confirmed by refugee workers in Afghanistan, where authorities confirmed he had lived in Germany for eight years before being deported. On their turn, the German Interior Ministry described it as “a deeply lamentable occurrence”.

The minister’s remarks ignited anger among German officials and social media activists as well, with many calls for him to resign.

A German lawmaker and head of the parliamentary human rights committee, Gyde Jensen, was one of many politicians who demanded Seehofer’s dismissal. She said: “anyone who celebrates 69 deportations for his 69th birthday is in the wrong job”.

Left Party Internal Affairs Spokeswoman Ulla Jelpke also wrote in a statement: "an interior minister who publicly expresses his happiness at people being sent back to a country at war not only obviously lacks basic human sympathy, but also the qualifications for the job”.

On social media, Germans went to criticize Seehofer’s policy in general as he roots from a party who is known for its racist and extreme policies.

Joseph Azam has also criticized the minister’s remarks, pointing out the reasons why Afghans seek asylum in Germany.

Tom Barfield, a reporter for AFP wrote on Twitter:

Additionally, some drawings were painted about him.

Seehofer’s party is the CSU, which occupies the place of Merkel’s conservative CDU in Bavaria, Germany’s largest state. Both parties were allies since World War Two, however, they nearly fell out last week over Seehofer’s tough policies on immigration, which might result in bringing down the government.

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