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The conservative choice for chancellor said those who come to Germany and then commit crimes must go back to where they came from, even to war zones like Afghanistan.
German conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet is doubling down on his stance on asylum-seekers who commit crimes.
Laschet, who is hoping to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, told the German tabloid Bild newspaper: "Criminals must continue to be consistently deported, including to Afghanistan."
The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said he was mindful of what was happening in the war-torn country, but would not be moved. He said that "the situation therefore requires ongoing assessment and careful action in the event of returns. But our line remains clear: Anyone who commits a criminal offense in Germany has forfeited their right to stay as a guest."
As it stands, foreigners who have been sentenced to at least two years imprisonment and those convicted of serious offenses can be deported. In December 2020, Germany announced it would be lifting a ban on deportations to Syria that had been in place since 2012. The Interior Ministry said at the time the rules would only affect a small group of serious offenders.
Owing to the current state of volatility in Afghanistan, the decision to continue deport foreigners convicted of criminal offences is a contentious issue. The Taliban have escalated their offensive since the forces led by the United States began leaving the country. Afghan troops are battling to stem the tide, with the resurgent Taliban making key gains.
Laschet said: "We are monitoring the situation in Afghanistan very closely. We cannot ignore the advance of the Taliban and the consequences for the population. The situation therefore requires ongoing assessment and careful procedures for repatriations."
On Sunday, Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) also backed continued deportations. "We are currently negotiating with Afghanistan so that we can continue to deport criminals there," he told Bild am Sonntag.
However, given the ongoing conflict, critics say it is too dangerous to send asylum-seekers back, as the safety of those being returned cannot be guaranteed.
The Green Party in Germany is among those calling for a halt in deportations on the grounds of the deteriorating security situation.
kb/js (AFP, dpa)