Germany to debate deportation of asylum seekers who commit crimes

Germany's parliament will Wednesday debate legislative changes that will make it easier to deport asylum seekers who commit crimes, following outrage over the New Year's Eve assaults in Cologne that have been linked mainly to foreign nationals.

Authorities say 561 police complaints have been filed - about 45 per cent of them related to sexual violence - in the wake of the attacks in the western German city, where groups of mainly North African men encircled, sexually assaulted and robbed women near the main train station.

Deporting convicted asylum seekers is difficult in Germany because the risks they would face in their country of origin is often considered greater than the gravity of the crime.

The reforms have to be approved by the Bundestag and Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.

If they go into effect, asylum seekers will be deported even in the case of a suspended sentence for crimes such as bodily harm, homicide, rape, sexual assault and serial larceny.

A sentence of more than one year would further increase the chances of deportation, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Justice Minister Heiko Maas said as they presented the proposals on Tuesday.

The government is also seeking changes to existing laws on sexual assault, which it has been working on since last year, months before the attacks in Cologne and other cities.

The changes seek to ensure that victims who do not resist assault - for fear of greater physical harm if they do - are better protected.

A special parliamentary committee will discuss the New Year's Eve assaults later in the day, and hear from Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of North Rhine Westphalia state, where Cologne is based.

The debate over deportations has increased tensions over the influx of migrants and refugees in Germany. Some 1.1 million migrants entered the country in 2015 and several thousand people are crossing its southern border each day.

Last update: Wed, 13/01/2016 - 12:05
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