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Hamburg attack provokes rift over deportation policy

The debate on deporting criminal foreigners from Germany has intensified after a deadly knife attack in Hamburg. The 26-year-old Palestinian assailant had been pegged for deportation, and was a known Islamist.

Following the deadly knife attack in Hamburg by an Islamist threatened with deportation, the German interior ministry has called for an increase in the number of places available in detention centers for people waiting to be deported.

There are currently around 226,000 people awaiting deportation with only 400 spaces in custody. Deportations are dealt with by Germany's 16 federal states, not by central government in Berlin.

"We constantly receive reports that applications for custody pending deportation are not being made by federal states, because the lack of places means they cannot guarantee actual detention," a spokesperson for the interior ministry told the newspaper Welt.

Read more: Things to know about deportations in Germany

Stephan Mayer, interior affairs spokesman for the Christian Social Union (CSU), said individual states had a duty to implement deportation laws when national security was at stake. 

"With relaxed requirements for taking persons posing a potential threat into custody pending deportation in place, the individual states must apply for pre-deportation custody for known Islamists," Mayer told Welt. "This also applies when those individuals don't have passports or travel documentation in place."

The CSU is the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).Read more: The dark side of Germany's deportation policy

Waiting room at asylum center

Several politicians have accused authorities of not acting fast enough in producing travel documentation for deportees without passports

Call for centralized deportation

CDU interior affairs expert Wolfgang Bosbach also stressed in the regional Rheinische Post newspaper that the federal government had significantly expanded the list of conditions for qualifying criminal foreigners for deportation as well as provision for custody before deportation.

"If we continue to keep up this practice of accepting asylum seekers unable to produce passports at our borders, and allow hundreds of third country citizens without proven identities and nationalities to enter on a daily basis we will logically also have big issues when it comes to repatriation," Bosbach said.

"We need to know who comes into our country."

Passport control

The accusations attracted some sharp criticism from other parties. They accused the CDU/CSU of unnecessarily politicizing the events in Hamburg. The interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony, Boris Pistorius, said that one of the main problems was of administrative nature, with Germany taking too long to produce travel documentation for individuals without passports pegged for deportation.

He added, however, that it was impossible to "expect everyone to have a passport, as there are many countries that do not produce passports."

The leader of the Green party in parliament, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, said that the government should pressure countries of origin to cooperate in producing papers.

"I would expect the interior minister and the chancellor to take better care of making sure that such countries speed up the issuing of identitification documents," she told Welt.

ss/rt (AFP, KNA, epd)

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