Merkel's party proposes tougher laws on asylum-seekers in Germany
Stricter penalties for those who commit crimes while seeking refuge in Germany, as well as speeding up their deportation process, are being pushed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party in the light of the New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party called for strengthening of the country's laws for asylum-seekers during a party meeting in the German city of Mainz on Saturday. The document, called the "Mainz Declaration", features a number of draft laws that aim to make it easier for authorities to deport asylum-seekers who commit crimes.
Proposals for stricter policies towards asylum-seekers and refugees come in the wake of crimes - including sexual assaults on women - allegedly committed by a number of foreigners in the city of Cologne on New Year's Eve. On Friday, German federal police announced that over 30 suspects responsible for the violence had been identified. Around 20 of them were asylum-seekers.
Police in Cologne have received 379 complaints so far, officials announced on Saturday, adding that some 40 percent of the cases are related to sexual harassment.
While current German laws state that asylum-seekers can only be forced to leave Germany if they have been sentenced to at least three years, and with no risk to their lives in their home countries, the new proposed measures include speeding up of the deportation process.
"If people act outside the law... there must be consequences. That means that they [refugees who commit crimes] can lose their residence right away, regardless of whether they have a suspended sentence or a prison sentence," Merkel said in Mainz.
"This is in the interests of the citizens of Germany, but also in the interests of the great majority of the refugees who are here,'' she added.
Increased security including measures such as random checks on individuals by security personnel at places like train stations, where many of the assaults took place in Cologne, are also listed in the CDU's new draft plan.
Among the moves mentioned in the document challenging Merkel's open-door policy, is a proposal to reduce the number of migrants entering the country.
"Cologne shows that if inflow is too high, integration will not work," CDU member Carsten Linnemann said, as quoted by Spiegel.
Merkel said the suggested measures would be discussed with coalition partners before being introduced for parliamentary approval.