Chancellor Angela Merkel has supported a proposal that would speed up the deportation process for migrants who commit crimes. Her comments come a week after a massive string of sexual assaults carried out in Cologne.
In response to a spate of shocking New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Cologne - at least some of which were allegedly committed by refugees - Angela Merkel said on Friday that it was time to speed up the process of deporting migrants who are convicted of crimes.
"The most important thing is that the facts about what happened [in Cologne] are spoken about openly and bluntly. Terrible things happened, and we must respond to them," Merkel told an audience of fellow members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at a meeting in Mainz.
Under Germany's current laws, asylum seekers are only sent back if the government sentences them to three-year jail terms and deems they will not be in danger if they're sent back to their countries.
Changes to asylum laws
"We should ask ourselves whether it might be necessary to take this away earlier [than is currently the case], and I have to say that for me, we must take it away sooner," Merkel said, the first time she has explicitly called for a change to the law, according to AFP news agency.
Earlier Friday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Justice Minister Heiko Maas also met to discuss changes to the asylum laws.
Addressing the attacks in Cologne, de Maiziere defended the number of police officers deployed around the main train station, saying it was "a normal deployment for a normal New Year's Eve."
"In retrospect, it was too small," he said.
Merkel is under considerable pressure following the events in Cologne, as they have raised some doubts both inside and outside Germany about the chancellor's decision to allow in so many refugees.
Some have accused Merkel of having an "open-door" policy toward migrants, although Germany reintroduced border checks with Austria in September. In 2015, the country took in nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers, many from crisis-hit regions in the Middle East.
Mainz is the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, which is holding state elections on March 13. The state is hotly contested between the conservative CDU and its center-left rival, the Social Democrats,
blc/cmk (AFP, dpa)