Exclusive Germany Tightening Laws on Deportation, Sexual Offenses

Germany is tightening its laws on deportation and sexual offenses in the aftermath of the attacks on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, the interior minister and justice minister announced on Tuesday. Refugees sentenced to jail time for committing offenses that threaten someone’s life, physical integrity, sexual self-determination, or attacking police officers or using violence in property crimes can be more easily and swiftly deported in future, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said in a press conference in Berlin. That applies even if the sentence is suspended, he noted. For other offenses, the bar to deport criminal refugees will be lowered from a jail sentence of three years to one year, Mr. de Maizière added. “Criminals have to be rigorously held accountable in Germany, and with criminal foreigners, deportation is one of the consequences,” said Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, at the joint press conference. The law on sexual offenses will be tightened to also include such cases as rape or sexual abuse where the victim didn’t resist because she feared further violence or because the perpetrator took advantage of an element of surprise. Mr. Maas stressed that both these situations were the case in Cologne, where on New Year’s Eve scores of women were robbed, molested and assaulted by crowds of men, some of them suspected to be refugees. For months, policymakers had discussed tightening the law on sexual offenses to close glaring gaps, he added. Tightening both laws is necessary also to protect “the overwhelming majority of innocent foreigners in Germany,” who “do not deserve to be lumped together with criminal foreigners,” Mr. Maas said. Both laws are fast-tracked, meaning they do not need approval in the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. They will, however, be put to a vote in the upper house, the Bundesrat.