Refugee Crisis: Angela Merkel Proposes Tougher Laws after Cologne Attacks
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced tougher refugee laws after the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne.
Angela Merkel has proposed changes to make it easier to deport asylum-seekers who commit crimes on German territory.
The attacks, which victims say were carried out by men of North African and Arab appearance, have called into question the German chancellor’s open-door migrant policy.
The police’s handling of the events has also been sharply criticized.
The anti-immigrant Pegida movement is due to protest in Cologne.
Angela Merkel, speaking after a meeting of her Christian Democrat party leadership in Mainz, proposed tightening the law on denying the right of asylum for those who have committed crimes.
Under the new plans, those on probation could be deported too.
“When crimes are committed, and people place themselves outside the law…there must be consequences,” Angela Merkel told reporters after the meeting.
Under current German laws, asylum seekers are only forcibly sent back if they have been sentenced to at least three years, and providing their lives are not at risk in their countries of origin.
The move, which will still need parliamentary approval, follows the New Year’s Eve attacks, which sparked outrage in Germany.
Victims described chaos as dozens of assaults and robberies were carried out with little apparent response from the authorities around the city’s main station.
Twenty-one people are being investigated for assault.
The identification of the attackers in Cologne as North African or Arab in appearance has caused alarm in Germany because of the influx of more than a million refugees in 2015.
Meanwhile German officials have warned that anti-immigrant groups have been trying to use the attacks to stir up hatred.
Similar attacks to those seen in Cologne were also reported in Hamburg and in Stuttgart on New Year’s Eve. In Bielefeld, hundreds of men tried to force their way into nightclubs Die Welt reports.
Police said several women had alleged assault.
As the investigation into the Cologne attacks continues, federal authorities say they have identified 18 asylum-seekers among 31 suspects. However, they are suspected of theft and violence, but not assault.
The suspects include nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, two Germans and one each from Iraq, Serbia and the United States.
Separately to the federal investigation focusing on what happened at the station itself, Cologne police are investigating 21 people in connection with the assaults. It is not known how many of these are asylum-seekers.
The North Rhine-Westphalia state police have recorded 170 complaints of crimes, 117 of which involve assault. There were two allegations of rape.
The interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Ralf Jaeger said on January 8 that he had suspended police chief Wolfgang Albers from his duties.
Wolfgang Albers has been accused of holding back information about the attacks, in particular about the origin of the suspects.