A hopeful to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the head of the Christian Democrats had called for Syrian refugees who commit crimes in Germany to be deported. Germany's interior minister disagrees.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has ruled out ending a moratorium on deporting Syrians, including those whose asylum applications are denied or those who commit crimes in Germany.
Seehofer told Der Spiegel magazine on Friday that the decision was made after publication of a Foreign Ministry report detailing dismal conditions in the war-torn country.
"At the moment, deportations cannot take place to any region in Syria," Seehofer told the magazine. "That also applies to criminals."
The move by Seehofer, the head of Bavaria's Christian Social Union, contradicts Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a front-runner in the race to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the larger sister party to the CSU.
Kramp-Karrenbauer had called for Syrian refugees who commit crimes in Germany to be deported, despite persistent fighting in some parts of the country.
Last week, Seehofer said the Interior Ministry was "looking very closely" at the possibility of deporting rejected asylum-seekers to Syria.
Regional interior ministers from Germany's 16 states are set to discuss whether to extend the moratorium at a conference next week.
Germany's refugee policy has dominated politics since Merkel's decision to allow more than a million refugees to enter the country in 2015.
Her potential successors to lead the CDU — party General Secretary Kramp-Karrenbauer, former parliamentary leader Friedrich Merz and Health Minister Jens Spahn — have all called for stricter asylum rules.
Merz sparked an outcry on Wednesday when he suggested that Germany should reconsider the country's constitutional right to asylum.