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Refugees shouldn’t be deported for sex crimes

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The picture says: "Deportation. Germany." Photo: DPA
14:37 CET+01:00
In the wake of the Cologne sexual assaults, many are calling for refugees found guilty of such crimes to be deported. This is not morally justifiable, argues The Local's Jörg Luyken.

As slow as the political elite of Germany were to react the Cologne sex attacks, they have been as fast to jump on the bandwagon of public outrage and offer strong-arm solutions.

The consensus among the German political class seems to be that asylum seekers found guilty of these attacks should be packed onto cargo jets and sent back to whatever war zone they came from.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) wasted no time in using the attacks as a pretext for toughening asylum laws.

At a party conference in Mainz on Saturday the CDU unanimously decided that someone should lose their right to asylum even for offences carrying a suspended sentence.

The conservatives outdid even their own expectations in the so-called “Mainz Declaration”, having originally only intended to take asylum away from people handed jail time.

Desperate to keep up, Sigmar Gabriel, vice-Chancellor and head of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), told Bild that "all the possibilities of international law" must be examined "to send criminal asylum seekers back home."

"Why should German taxpayers pay for foreign criminals' jail time?" he asked, arguing that the threat of imprisonment in countries of origin would be a greater deterrent than spending time in a German prison.

Caught out by the depth of public anger, mainstream politicians are desperately trying to show they’re not the naive nincompoops the far right say they are.

But these proposals are morally bankrupt populism.

International law provides very few possibilities to send asylum seekers back home to a country they fled fearing for their lives.

The only exceptions the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees makes is for people culpable of serious war crimes or combatants - in both circumstances refugee status may be denied.

All other types of crime should be dealt with by national legal systems.

And this is with very good reason.

By definition a refugee is someone being offered protection because their life is at risk in their home country. To send them back could mean sending them to their death.

So the legal changes the German mainstream political parties are outbidding each other to make could effectively might amount to a death sentence for something as minor as theft.

To anyone with even a passing acquaintance with accepted European jurisprudence this should seem a touch harsh.

And the fact is that no crime in Europe warrants death - so whatever criminal act we are talking about, be it theft, sexual assault or murder, none can justifiably result in someone being deported to a country where their life is threatened.

Whether Germany would really get such deportations past the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is highly questionable.

Britain fought for years against the ECHR to have Islamist cleric Abu Qatada deported to Jordan, a peaceful country, over fears that he could face torture there.

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One can only imagine the looks on the faces of the Strasbourg judges when Merkel and Gabriel try and convince them Syrian President Bashar al Assad can be trusted to treat prisoners with dignity.

Enough of the tough talk. And enough of the feel-good liberalism too.

It's time Germany got real about the risks that come with taking in large amounts of refugees from war zones and ultra-conservative cultures.

But it needs to be honest to about the obligations it has to these people's lives as well.

Only then will realistic, moral and manageable solutions start being discussed.

SEE ALSO: Silence on sex crimes will make racism worse

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