German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, known for his hard line stance on migration, has ruled out the deportation of rejected Syrian asylum seekers, including known criminals, German outlet Spiegel reports.
"At the moment, deportation to any region of Syria is not possible, this also concerns criminals," the minister said.
Seehofer, who leads Bavarian conservatives from the Christian Social Union (Angela Merkel’s CDU’s sister party), has cited the latest report issued by Germany’s Foreign Minister, presented on November 13. It characterised the current situation in Syria as "complex, still difficult and volatile", a description which was applied both to territories controlled by militants and to regions where Damascus has reintroduced the rule of law.
The report also painted grim prospects for the returnees and deportees, claiming they face threats of revenge from the Syrian government. They connect this with both alleged "opposition-related activities" and refugees’ evasion of military service.
A week earlier, Seehofer stated that his Interior Ministry had considered lifting a 6-year moratorium. The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that the country’s authorities are expected to make a decision ahead of the conference of regional interior ministers, scheduled for next week.
The temporary deportation ban is due to expire on December 31, 2018. It was first introduced in 2012, a year after the civil war in Syria broke out, and subsequently prolonged. It was last extended in 2017, although Bavaria and Saxony voiced a desire to lift the moratorium in mid-2018 if security conditions in Syria allow.
The debates heated up during the race for the CDU leadership, as Angela Merkel earlier refused to seek re-election. Even incumbent CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, considered to be the Chancellor’s favourite, recently demanded that Syrians who had become criminals should be sent back to their homeland despite the civil war, while her rival candidate, billionaire lawyer Friedrich Merz triggered discussions with calls to look into changing the right to asylum, which is protected under the German constitution.
Spiegel reports that almost all Syrians in Germany currently have refugee status, as only 52 out of approximately 22,500 applications were rejected in 2018. Syrians constitute the lion's share of all applicants seeking asylum in Germany. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), nearly 34,000 claims out of the total number of 124,000 have been filed by migrants from this Arab Republic.
Over the last few months, protests against Angela Merkel’s refugee policy have shaken several towns throughout Germany. They were prompted by acts of violence including gang rape and murder, allegedly perpetrated by migrants. In late October, thousands rallied in Freiburg after seven Syrians were arrested on suspicion of raping an 18-year-old student. In September, the German city of Chemnitz was rocked by anti-immigrant protests, led by right-wing activists, after a local carpenter was allegedly stabbed to death by a migrant from Syria and another from Iraq following an altercation.