Court ruling further undermines Austria's stance on deporting Afghans

·2-min read

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria's Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that there was no prospect of deporting a rejected asylum seeker back to Afghanistan for now, further undermining the government's stance that it still plans to deport Afghans there.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's conservatives has said Austria must keep deporting Afghans back to Afghanistan for as long as possible even as the Taliban have seized control.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said on Tuesday it would be illegal to deport people to Afghanistan now, and the leader of the left-wing Greens, the junior partner in the coalition government, said on Monday there will be no such deportations. But Nehammer has yet to concede that.

"Given the current country information on Afghanistan, the Constitutional Court does not find that a prompt ... deportation of the applicant to his country of origin is possible," the court said in a statement.

The Afghan, whose name and age were not mentioned, had had his asylum claim and appeal rejected and was in custody pending deportation. The court ruled that he be released.

Nehammer, whose conservatives often compete with the far-right Freedom Party for voters, said on Wednesday that Austria still deports Afghans to the extent it can under European law, an apparent reference to the fact it deports some to other European countries.

Nehammer and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg have also called for "deportation centres" to be set up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan as an alternative to deporting Afghans home, suggesting that may no longer be possible.

Austria was one of six European Union countries that warned the European Commission this month against halting the deportation of rejected Afghan asylum seekers despite the Taliban's advances.

Since then, three of the six have reversed course. Only Austria, Belgium and Greece have not.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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