22nd Oct 2016

Germany to relax migrant deportation rules

Germany is amending laws to ease the deportation of foreigners with criminal offences amid an on-going backlash over mass sexual assaults on women during New Year's Eve festivities.

The move is part of a broader effort to calm tensions following widespread allegations that mainly young men from Middle East and North African nations had organised the New Year's Eve crime spree in Cologne and elsewhere.

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On Tuesday (12 January), German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere and justice minister Heiko Maas proposed a draft law to relax deportations of asylum seekers and others convicted of crimes.

“It's a hard but correct response by the state to those who are seeking protection here, but think they can commit crimes," said De Maiziere.

He said the law significantly lowers the "hurdle for a possible deportation of foreigners who committed criminal offences in Germany".

The draft law lowers the deportation threshold of criminal offences from the current three year jail sentence to one.

Those convicted of a crime that carries a one year sentence can be deported.

Offences ranging anywhere from convictions without parole to youth sentences are included in the draft law.

The proposal is likely to sail through the German parliament after receiving backing from the social democrats in chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition.

Some 19 suspects in the New Year's Eve sex assaults have been identified.

But outstanding issues on how to deport people to countries who refuse them entry remain. Deporting convicts to countries where they face war, torture or death also poses problems.

Last year, up until the end of November, Germany expelled some 18,363 people. Most came from former Yugoslav states like Albania, Kosovo and Serbia.

But the secretary-general of Germany's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Peter Tauber, wants those figures increased to around 1,000 daily deportations.

Germany is now sending an ever increasing number of migrants back to Austria with most coming from places like Afghanistan, Algeria, and Morocco.

In December, it dispatched around 60 per day, which has since increased to 200.

Meanwhile, the New Year's Eve assaults have led to mounting criticism against Germany's open-door policy for refugees and asylum seekers and has fed into brewing far-right hostility against foreigners.

Around 20 Pakistani nationals were attacked by marauding vigilante groups earlier this week near the Cologne railway station.

And last week, the anti-immigration Pegida movement marched through the centre of Cologne with some carrying banners reading "rapefugees not welcome".

Germany welcomed over a million asylum seekers last year with many fleeing war and persecution in Syria. Around a half million have applied so far for asylum.

Merkel, for her part, has warned that the chaotic arrival of migrants has made the EU more vulnerable.

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