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Merkel cabinet tackles swifter deportation for criminal foreigners

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers have drafted new legislation aimed at curbing criminality among asylum seekers. The main goal is to reduce barriers to deportation.

In Germany on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet discussed a new draft law to speed up the deportation process for foreigners who commit crimes. The legislation, principally authored by Justice Minister Heiko Maas and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, follows revelations from earlier this month that many of the men who perpetrated a string of sexual assaults in the city of Cologne on New Year's were

principally from North Africa.

The incidents have brought sharp criticism down on Merkel and her open-door refugee policy, even from within her cabinet. Wednesday's meeting could indicate a thaw within the administration as Maas belongs to coalition partner the Social Democrats (SPD) and de Maizière to Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

Repeat offenders to be 'particularly targeted'

The Merkel administration hopes to remove hurdles for deporting foreigners, including asylum seekers and refugees, who are charged with, for example, causing bodily harm, resisting the orders of police officers, any sex-related crimes, or even offenses relating to violating personal property. Repeat offenders, according to a government spokesman, are to be particularly targeted.

Watch video 01:33

Germany: Merkel ally threatens legal steps

Whether or not the sentence has been suspended or the perpetrator is given probation instead of a prison term will play no role, Berlin said.

After the meeting, Justice Minister Maas insisted that the move was not to target ayslum seekerss. On the contrary, "this also serves to protect the hundreds of thousands of refugees who live completely blameless among us. They do not deserve to be thrown in the same pot as criminals."

Everyone from Merkel down to the Cologne chief of police, who has since gone into early retirement, has taken flak for how easily the events of New Year's Eve got out of hand. Since the assaults in Cologne became public knowledge, revelations have continued to emerge of similar attacks in a dozen other German towns, as well as in cities across Europe.

After Cologne, Chancellor Merkel was forced to rethink her refugee strategy. After closing Germany's southern border with Austria, Berlin has moved to make agreements with North Africa countries in a bid to make it easier to deport them there.

es/jil (Reuters, KNA)

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