Agence France-Presse, December 11, 2020
Germany said Friday it would allow deportation of Syrians to their war-ravaged homeland from 2021 if they are deemed a security risk, five years after a massive migrant influx.
The EU’s biggest economic power and most populous member allowed in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria’s devastating civil war in 2015-16 but security officials said it was time to lift blanket protections against expulsion.
“The general ban on deportations [to Syria] will expire at the end of this year,” Hans-Georg Engelke, state secretary at the interior ministry, told reporters.
“Those who commit crimes or pursue terrorist aims to do serious harm to our state and our population should and will have to leave our country.”
The decision, which drew vehement criticism from human rights groups, was taken at a telephone conference between federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a hardline conservative who had long called for an end to the deportation ban, and his 16 state-level counterparts.
The Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” government, failed in their bid to win a six-month extension of the protections, in place since 2012.
Engelke, standing in for Seehofer who was in quarantine after a coronavirus exposure, told a news conference that an estimated 90 Syrian suspected Islamists were believed to be in Germany.
Calls for a change in stance have been growing since a Syrian man was arrested in November on suspicion of carrying out a deadly knife attack in the city of Dresden.
Prosecutors said the 20-year-old, accused of killing one tourist and seriously injuring another, had a raft of criminal convictions and a history of involvement with the Islamist scene.
He had been living in Germany under “tolerated” status granted to people whose asylum requests have been rejected, but who cannot be deported.
However as Germany heads into a general election year to replace Merkel after 16 years in power, conservative politicians seized on the issue amid concerns among some voters about the security risk posed by refugees.