Tuesday 31 March, 2020

Germany's refugee drama hits the headlines amid election campaign

News Desk
Published: 02 August 2017 Wednesday, 05:11  AM

Germany's refugee drama hits the headlines amid election campaign


Bonn, 2 August (deutschenews24.de/dpa)- The German election campaign spotlight has turned to the nation`s handling of refugees amid calls for Berlin to toughen deportation laws after a deadly knife attack by a failed Palestinian asylum seeker.

With Germans set to go to the polls in less than two months, top political figures have raised fresh doubts about the nation`s deportation practices.

"Even if the circumstances in concrete terms are still unclear, the question remains as to why the man was not in detention," said Burkhard Lischka, a domestic affairs expert with the centre-left Social Democrats, the main rivals of Chancellor Angela Merkel`s conservatives in the September 24 election. He was speaking in an interview with the daily Heilbronner Stimme.

It is time to end the "vicious bureaucratic cycle" surrounding the handling of deportations, said Andreas Scheuer, who is the secretary-general of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian-based allies of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

"If someone’s radicalization is known, such persons must be withdrawn from operating in the community before they commit any acts," Scheuer told the weekly Bild am Sonntag.

Germany has in the past been slow to deport failed asylum seekers often because of the complicated procedures involved in sending them back to their homelands.

Merkel`s government has moved to strengthen the nation`s deportation laws after suffering a political backlash in the wake of the chancellor`s decision in September 2015 to open the nation`s borders to allow 890,000 refugees to travel to Germany.

Berlin was also forced to act after groups of alleged migrants sexually molested and robbed women on New Year`s last year in the western German city of Cologne.

The chancellor came under renewed pressure following a series of Islamic-linked terrorist attacks last year culminating in December when a failed Tunisian-born asylum seeker Anis Amri ploughed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market killing 12 people and injuring 56.

Amri fled Germany before being shot dead in Milan by Italian police.

Merkel`s conservatives have bounced back since the refugee crisis with the CDU-CSU now enjoying a commanding lead in opinion polls and the chancellor once again Germany`s most popular politician, according to a voter survey published this month by public broadcaster ZDF.

The CDU-CSU has promoted the chancellor as a safe pair of hands in a turbulent world as it gears up for the September election.

But the Hamburg attack, in which one man died and seven people were injured, underlines the potential political risk posed to Merkel of a possible terrorist attack linked to the refugee crisis as she makes her bid for a fourth term as head of Europe`s biggest economy.

SPD leader Martin Schulz last week seized on the refugee issue, seeing it as one of Merkel`s political weak points.

A former European Parliament president, Schulz attempted to use the refugee issue to demonstrate his skills at solving problems on the European political stage.

However, a voter survey drawn up by pollster Emnid and published in the weekly Bild am Sonntag showed 53 per cent of voters viewed Merkel as better in managing the refugee issue than Schulz, who scored just 15 per cent.

Still, the Emnid poll also confirmed that one of the beneficiaries of Germany`s refugee dramas is likely to be the anti-foreigner Alternative for Germany (AfD), that at 9 per cent represented its highest backing in three months.

A new law came into force on Saturday, one day after a 26-year-old Palestinian identified in the German media as Ahmad A. allegedly attacked several people at random with a kitchen knife a Hamburg supermarket before bystanders managed to overpower him.

His asylum application was rejected last year.

Under the new law, those required to leave the country but who are judged to pose a security risk or a threat to public safety can be more easily held in detention centres or monitored. 

Born in United Arab Emirates, Ahmad A. had been known to the authorities as an Islamist, and possibly psychological unstable but was not considered to be dangerous, said Andy Grote, Hamburg’s interior minister.

Federal prosecutors said on Monday that they had taken charge of the investigation into Ahmad A., due "the special significance of the case."

Authorities were unable to deport Ahmad A, who arrived in Germany from Norway in March 2015, because he lacked the necessary identity papers.