• Germany's news in English
 
jobs_header_v3

Merkel gets tough as migrants tied to violence

AFP · 10 Jan 2016, 19:08

Published: 10 Jan 2016 19:08 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Turning away from her mantra of "we will manage this" over the record influx of asylum seekers that reached 1.1 million last year, Merkel has now backed changes to the law to make it easier to expel those convicted of crime.

"If the law does not suffice, then the law must be changed," she said on Saturday, warning that any refugee handed a jail term -- even if it was a suspended sentence -- should be kicked out of the country.

"Cologne has changed everything, people now are doubting," said Volker Bouffier, vice president of Merkel's CDU party.

Even though no arrests have been made or formal charges laid, Cologne police said those suspected over the rampage near the city's railway station a week ago were mostly asylum seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa.

Some 516 cases have already been lodged, police said, adding that about 40 percent of these related to allegations of sexual assault.


Separately in Hamburg, police said 133 cases have been lodged for similar violence on New Year's festivities.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said he believed the violence in Cologne was organised.

"For such a horde of people to meet and commit such crimes, it has to have been planned somehow," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"No one can tell me that this was not coordinated or planned. The suspicion is that a specific date and an expected crowd was picked," he said.

The scale of the Cologne assaults has stoked public anger and fear, with a poll published by Bild am Sonntag newspaper saying that 39 percent of those surveyed felt police did not provide sufficient protection, while 57 percent
did.

And just under half (49 percent) believed the same sort of mob violence could hit their hometown, reported the newspaper which headlined its article with the question: "Is the New Year Eve scandal the result of wrong policies?"

With thousands of asylum seekers streaming into Germany every day since last year, Merkel has already come under intense pressure, even within her own conservative alliance, to reverse her open-door policy to war refugees.

Critics have questioned Germany's ability to integrate the massive numbers of newcomers, many of whom hail from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Merkel had until now not wavered from her stance, even using her New Year's address to tell Germans that the record influx is "an opportunity for tomorrow".

Although she has vowed steps to reduce refugee numbers next year, she has not set an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers Germany could take in.

Her plan involves persuading other EU members to take in more refugees, and an EU deal with gateway country Turkey to better protect its borders.

But after Cologne, she has adopted a harsher tone, saying also that "we must speak again about the cultural fundamentals of our co-existence".

- 'Turning point?' -

"It's not premature to speak of a turning point, or at least the reinforcing of a trend that had already started to take shape lately," Andreas Roedder, contemporary history professor at Mainz University told AFP.

Bit by bit, the government has begun to tighten up checks, including reinstating individual interviews in asylum applications for Syrians since January 1, which had earlier been waived.

An advertising campaign is also going on in Afghanistan to dissuade middle-class Afghans from coming, telling them that they should stay and help rebuild their home country.

Balkan states have been designated safe countries of origin -- a category which meant that citizens would not usually be granted asylum -- and Algeria and Morocco could soon join that list.

"After a period of open-arms policy, the time has perhaps come to change the tone. Right now the question is on expulsions, toughening the law, as what happened in Cologne really has a political dimension to it," said Tilman
Mayer, a political analyst at the Bonn University, speaking to Phoenix television station.

Merkel is caught in a bind as asylum seekers are still arriving at the rate of between 3,000 and 4,000 a day, despite the harsh winter conditions.

Several former eastern bloc countries have so far shown no signs of heeding to her call to take in more refugees, with Czech President Milos Zeman in December calling the current refugee influx to Europe "an organised invasion".

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico also seized on the Cologne violence to hammer home his point against the influx of asylum seekers, accusing politicians of continuing "to trivialise -- even after the attacks in Cologne and other European cities -- the security risks associated with unregulated and uncontrolled migration within the EU".

"The situation could degenerate very quickly for Merkel within the CDU because resistance and nervousness is growing," said Roedder.

Opinion polls are predicting that populist right-wing party Alternative for Germany would win their first seats in three regional parliaments during key elections in March.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Today's headlines
VW bosses forced to pay back private jet costs

Bosses at troubled German auto giant Volkswagen have been forced to pay the company back millions of euros for flights on its private jets, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.

Germany arrests Marxist militant 'leader'
Photo: Julian Stratenschulte / DPA / AFP file picture

A radical Marxist suspected of belonging to a left-wing extremist group accused of terrorism by Turkey has been arrested in Germany, judicial sources said on Saturday.

Afghan teen arrested over German murder-rape
Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / DPA / AFP file picture

A teenage Afghan asylum seeker has been arrested on suspicion of the rape and murder of a 19-year-old female student in Germany, police and prosecutors said Saturday.

Nazi POW leaves estate to 'kind' Scottish village
The former German soldier stayed on to work in the Perthshire village for a time after the war. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP file picture

A former Nazi prisoner of war has left his entire estate in his will to a small village in Scotland to show his appreciation for the kindness he received there during his captivity.

US tries to block Chinese purchase of Aixtron
Photo: Oliver Berg / DPA / AFP

US President Barack Obama on Friday moved to block a Chinese company's purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of Aixtron's US business in the deal.

Merkel to chart 2017 election battle at party congress
Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

After Donald Trump's shock victory, Francois Hollande's decision not to seek re-election and populism on the rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next up on the campaign podium to set out her strategy for winning in 2017 polls.

Berlin vs Munich: whose newborn polar bear is cuter?
Berlin's (left) and Munich's (right) newborn bears. Photos: Tierpark Berlin / DPA

Both city zoos welcomed baby polar bears into the world in November, with Berlin zoo its releasing first photos on Friday. But which one is more adorable?

Learn how to speak German like a silver screen icon
Dirty Harry. Photo: DPA

We all agree that there is no other option than to learn irregular German verbs by rote. But when you want a bit of downtime, why not learn from your big screen heroes?

Stolen Dachau 'Work will set you free' gate found: police
The entrance to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Photo: DPA

An iron gate from the former Nazi concentration camp in Germany's Dachau with the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free") has been found two years after it was stolen, police said Friday.

Mystery flight path artist draws new message in sky
Photo: DPA

A pilot who likes to draw patterns in the sky using his flight path has returned with his greatest artwork yet.

Lifestyle
10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter
Sponsored Article
The key to launching your international career
Lifestyle
Our 10-step guide for doing Christmas just like a German
National
Here's why so many Germans vote for the far-right AfD
National
7 events in Germany that'll make December unforgettable
Lifestyle
7 frosty German sayings to make you a winter wordsmith
National
This is how unequal German society has become
National
Six things you should know about the Lufthansa strike
National
9 ways living in Germany will make you a better person
National
These 10 German Christmas markets cannot be missed
Features
8 German words that unlock amazing secrets in English
Culture
10 German words with simply hilarious literal translations
Lifestyle
7 things Germans do that make foreigners feel awkward
International
Why Donald Trump's grandad was booted out of Germany
National
This is what is really inside your Döner kebab
National
Rejoice! Christmas markets start opening across Germany
Education
These German universities are best at landing you a job
Travel
Why Heidelberg is Germany's most inspiring city
Lifestyle
This soppy German Christmas ad will bring you to tears
National
Here's where Germans speak the best (and worst) English
Culture
10 German books you have to read before you die
Culture
U-Bahn train found filled with autumn foliage in Berlin
Features
Seven German words that unlock amazing secrets about English
Travel
Germany's ten most beautiful towns you've never visited
6,552
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd