Germany to deport Afghans and Syrians convicted of serious crimes

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says asylum seekers from Syria and Afghanistan who commit serious crimes will be deported to their home countries, in a significant change of policy that comes days after a policeman was killed by a suspected Islamist extremist.

In a statement to the Bundestag on Thursday, Scholz also said that immigrants who glorified or condoned terrorism would be deported.

“I find it outrageous that people can commit serious crimes who have sought protection from us here,” Scholz said. “Such criminals must be deported, even if they come from Syria and Afghanistan.”

The announcement came four days after a police officer succumbed to wounds sustained during a knife attack by an Afghan national in the south-western city of Mannheim last Friday.

German authorities have so far been reluctant to send back Syrians and Afghans whose asylum claims were rejected in view of the dire security situation in both countries.

But the mood in Germany has hardened significantly in the wake of the Mannheim attack, which has dominated the last days of campaigning for the European elections. The far-right Alternative for Germany party has seized on the attack to criticise what it sees as the government’s lax immigration policies.

The suspected perpetrator is a 25-year-old man who came to Germany from Afghanistan as a teenager in 2013. His initial asylum claim was rejected, but he subsequently married a German national and was allowed to stay. Authorities said he had integrated well into German society but media reports suggested he had built up ties to Islamist groups.

A forensics officer near the scene of the knife attack in Mannheim in which a police officer was killed
A forensics officer near the scene of the knife attack in Mannheim in which a police officer died © Uwe Anspach/dpa

One of those injured in Friday’s attack was Michael Stürzenberger, a leader of the anti-Islam Pax Europa movement, which campaigns against what its members describe as the “creeping Islamisation” of Germany.

Scholz said the interior ministries of Germany’s 16 states were exploring “legally and practically sustainable ways” to allow authorities to deport convicted criminals and terrorism suspects to Afghanistan.

“In such cases, Germany’s security interests weigh heavier than the perpetrator’s right to protection,” said the chancellor. “The message is clear: whoever abuses the protection we provide, as the perpetrator in Mannheim did, has forfeited this protection. We will have zero tolerance there.”

“We will also no longer tolerate terrorist crimes being glorified and celebrated,” he went on. “That is a slap in the face of the victims, their families and our democratic system.”

Scholz also used the government statement to reiterate his commitment to Ukraine’s defence against Russia. He said he would be attending the peace conference in Switzerland spearheaded by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Germany recently followed the US in announcing that Ukraine could use German-supplied weapons to attack Russian positions on Russian territory near Kharkiv, the north-eastern Ukrainian city that has come under heavy Russian bombardment in recent weeks.

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