BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners proposed fast-tracking asylum applications by Moroccans and Algerians to enable quicker deportations if they are rejected, following sexual attacks on women blamed on migrants.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas said more foreign criminals would be expelled once new restrictions are rolled out in the wake of the crowd assaults on women on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other German cities.
Complaints from over 600 women range from sexual molestation to theft and police say their inquiries are focussed on illegal migrants from North Africa as well as asylum seekers.
The attacks have deepened doubts about Merkel’s decision to throw open Germany’s door to asylum seekers, the majority of whom have escaped wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Merkel’s left-leaning coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), said on Wednesday the majority of the suspects in the assaults were from Algeria and Morocco.
The coalition, led by Merkel’s conservatives, on Tuesday presented plans aimed at making it easier to deport foreigners who are found guilty of committing physical and sexual assaults, resisting police or damaging property.
Under current laws, most of these crimes carry probationary sentences and do not trigger expulsion.
Merkel has endorsed the proposals.
Burkhard Lischka, domestic affairs spokesman for the SPD, said asylum requests from Algeria and Morocco are almost never approved after the standard processing time of 15 months, and that the party now wants to cut this period to a few weeks.
“An especially important protective measure against such criminal practices by people from these countries is to decide on asylum claims from North Africa within a few weeks.”
Members of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party have suggested classifying Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as “safe countries,” which would allow quicker deportations of failed asylum applicants from those countries.
Last year, the German government declared states of the Western Balkans, namely Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo, to be “safe countries”. Following that move, asylum applications from citizens of these countries significantly dropped.
But the total number of migrants reaching Germany surged to some 1.1 million in 2015.
Maas, the justice minister, said there would certainly be more deportation orders as a result of changes to the law “because we are lowering the requirements for a deportation”.
Germany will still not deport people who come from countries where war is raging or where they could face the death penalty or torture, he added.
The German cabinet still needs to endorse the proposed deportation plans before a draft law it drawn up to go through the Bundestag (lower house of parliament).
Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Joseph Nasr and Mark Heinrich
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