The German government plans to ease the rules for deporting foreign criminals after the New Year’s Eve assaults in Cologne.
Two senior ministers said the planned reform of laws on deportation and sexual offences will lower the legal hurdles to expel foreigners who commit serious crimes.
Justice minister Heiko Maas and interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said any custodial sentence for crimes against another person’s bodily integrity, including sexual assaults, as well as serious property damage, will be grounds for deportation.
Cologne police said 553 criminal complaints have been filed in connection to the New Year’s Eve attacks. Most of the suspects are believed to be foreigners, including at least some asylum-seekers.
Authorities are looking into whether the robberies and sexual assaults by groups of men were co-ordinated or linked to smaller-scale incidents in other cities.
Holger Muench, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said “the same conditions were in place at different locations”, with crowds of people gathering to celebrate the new year.
But he added: “I am not saying that there was no organisation, but it is not organised crime – that would have a different quality for me, we would be talking about... hierarchical groups.”
“That's a hard but right response by the state to those who are seeking protection here, but think they can commit crimes without consequences”, Mr de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin.
Mr Maas said public pressure after the Cologne assaults had played a role in getting the plan agreed so quickly.
The changes, which have to be approved by the cabinet and parliament, would cover youth sentences.
Many asylum seekers who commit crimes avoid deportation because the danger they face in their home country is considered greater than the reason for deporting them.