There have been mounting calls across Germany in recent weeks to bring an end to the deportation stop for Syrians, following a deadly knife attack on two tourists in Dresden earlier in October.
The German interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has joined calls for a relaxation of the general ban on deportations to Syria. He said he would examine whether people could be deported to the more peaceful parts of Syria.
But a speaker of the interior ministry on Friday said that in the current political climate in Syria, it would not be possible to introduce such measures. He added that the situation would be monitored until and reassessed by the end of the year.
The pleas for a change in direction in policy come after a deadly assault by a Syrian suspect in Dresden on October 4. Seehofer announced that the motivation behind the attack was “apparently of a radical Islamist nature.”
Deadly attack sways public mood
The knife attack on two tourists earlier this month had resulted in one person being killed and the other injured.
The 20-year-old suspect from Syria had, according to media reports, already been classified as a social threat in 2017 by authorities in the state of Saxony. In 2019, he was deprived of his refugee status due to a number of criminal offences he had committed. However, due to the ongoing ban on deportation of Syrian nationals, he could not be taken out of Germany.
The suspect had only been released from a juvenile prison one week prior to the assault. Germany’s Spiegel news magazine said that various authorities had been keeping an eye on the Syrian man after he was categorized as a potential threat.
Politicians respond to latest developments
While Seehofer was joined by a number of politicians from his Bavarian CSU party, which is the sister-party of Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, other politicians also commented on the developments, with the far-right AfD repeatedly demanding the immediate removal of the suspect from Germany.
Meanwhile CDU politician Friedrich Merz, who is on the shortlist to take over party leadership and run as chancellor in the 2021 national election, asked on Twitter why the "Islamist" assailant had not been kept in remand or deported for his crimes.
Representatives of most other political parties, however, spoke against any plans to remove the ban on deportation to Syria, stressing that the country was still in a state of civil warfare.
Left Party MP Ulla Jepke said that calls to introduce changes to existing deportation policies were an “absurdly illogical” response to crimes, adding that the social problem of Islamist radicalism would not wane by simply deporting people to their countries of origin.
Ban on deportation up for review
Syria has been in a state of civil war for nearly a decade, resulting in an initial trickle of asylum seekers which eventually grew to the so-called refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016.
The interior ministers of Germany’s 16 federal states had agreed back in 2012 that regardless of any individual decision on an asylum application, there would be a blanket ban on deportation of Syrians who fled to Germany. That ban remains in place for the time being until the end of 2020.
Bans to other countries, however, such as regions in Afghanistan deemed to be "safe" have been lifted in recent years, resulting in hundreds of deportations. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many deportation flights have been halted.
Certain countries, such as Pakistan, are completely off the list specifying bans on deportation, with increasing flights taking nationals of that country back home after failed asylum applications.
Appeals procedures can result in exemptions to deportation rulings, but are rather the exception than the rule.