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.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that all EU countries must be prepared to send security staff to the bloc’s external borders.
Speaking as she arrived at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Angela Merkel said it would be unfair to ask EU countries seeing the majority of initial refugee entries to secure borders as well.
The meeting aims to secure Turkey’s agreement to a plan to halt the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe.
Nearly 600,000 refugees have reached the EU by sea so far this year.
Describing the current situation as “very disorderly”, Angela Merkel said: “It’s quite obvious that only a few countries today take the majority of refugees and if these countries now are asked to secure the external borders on top of that, I don’t think it would be what we could call a fair distribution of effort.”
The summit aims to tackle the migration crisis by working with non-EU countries, protecting the EU’s external borders and ensuring some migrants are sent back.
Estonian PM Taavi Roivas said immediate action was needed to preserve the EU’s borderless Schengen area, which has come under increasing pressure, with some states reintroducing controls to prevent migrants from crossing borders.
Meanwhile Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban said his country would decide whether to close its border with Croatia by October 16.
Hungarian state TV reported Viktor Orban as saying he would prefer the EU to defend its external border in Greece but could seal its Croatian border “within an hour if necessary”.
There were also calls for member states to address the causes of migration by providing more money for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and for development in Africa.
“Member states need to put their money where their mouth is,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Meanwhile, EU negotiators in Ankara are making “good progress” in talks with Turkish officials, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Turkey is hosting some two million refugees, most of them fleeing the war in neighboring Syria.
It has also called for the establishment of an international “safe zone” for refugees inside northern Syria.
The 28 EU leaders meeting in Brussels are hoping the Turkish government will sign up to a joint action plan that includes: greater financial and procedural support for Turkey to deal with refugees; gaining permission from Turkey to help patrol its coastline; combating people smuggling; strengthening return operations.
Turkey is expected to press for progress towards visa-free travel for its citizens to European countries within the so-called Schengen area.
About two million people have fled to Turkey in more than four years of conflict in Syria. Every week thousands seek to enter the EU – typically via Greece – with many heading towards northern Europe.
Germany accepted the largest number of asylum claims in 2014 and expects to see as many as 800,000 in 2015. Sweden had the second-highest number of asylum seekers.
German TV station ARD has come under fire after airing a mocked-up image of Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing Islamic headscarf.
ARD has denied broadcasting “anti-Islamic propaganda”.
The image was shown in the background of a segment on refugee quotas in the channel’s Report from Berlin program.
The program has received heavy criticism from viewers, some of whom said the image resembled those used by anti-Islam movement PEGIDA.
ARD said that the image was “designed to capture people’s attention”.
“We welcome the many criticisms of the graphic in yesterday’s Report from Berlin and we are sorry some disagreed with our portrayal of the chancellor or even misunderstood,” the program said in a statement published on Facebook.
The statement said the graphic was intended as satire and reflected “the achievements of our Western society – freedom of expression, press freedom and equality”.
However, viewers took to Facebook to accuse the channel of anti-Islamic propaganda, calling the report “manipulative” and “appalling”.
“This is not constructive journalism,” wrote another.
Some defended the report, saying the program was entitled to freedom of expression and had asked “very reasonable questions”.
Many viewers compared the image to placards used by the Germany anti-immigrant protest group PEGIDA – which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West.
The group attracted tens of thousands to protest marches in cities around Germany earlier this year, with some waving placards displaying Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf.
PEGIDA’s protests have seen a resurgence in numbers recently after infighting led to cancellations and a dip in attendance.
On October 3, several thousand people attended protests in two towns – Plauen and Sebnitz – after a call to action by the group.
The ARD controversy comes at a time of heightened tension over immigration in Germany, which has said it is expecting 800,000 refugees and migrants to enter the country by the end of 2015.
However, a report leaked to German media suggests officials have put the figure far higher – at about 1.5 million.
Angela Merkel has come under growing pressure within Germany to clarify official estimates and defend her open-door policy towards refugees.
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