German chancellor vows deportation of criminals following deadly Manheim stabbing attack

Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed Thursday that Germany will start deporting criminals from Afghanistan and Syria again after a knife attack by an Afghan immigrant last week left one police officer dead and four more people injured.

The brutal attack in Mannheim, which was captured on video and quickly went viral online, shocked the country.

Scholz addressed parliament in a speech focused on security Thursday, just days before European elections in which far-right populists across the continent are expected to make big gains.

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“It outrages me when someone who has sought protection here commits the most serious crimes. Such criminals should be deported, even if they come from Syria and Afghanistan,” the chancellor said to the applause of lawmakers.

The 25-year-old attacker, who killed a 29-year-old police officer who was trying to stop him, came to Germany in 2014 as an asylum-seeker.

“Serious criminals and terrorist threats have no place here,” Scholz added. “In such cases, Germany’s security interests outweigh the interests of the perpetrator.”

Migration has been one of the major topics during the European election campaign that far-right and mainstream parties have been exploiting in order to garner votes from Europeans who have felt disgruntled by millions of new arrivals looking for refuge from wars, hunger, climate change or just trying to build up a better future for themselves.

Referring to Friday’s knife attack, Scholz said that “what happened in Mannheim — the fatal knife attack on a young policeman — is an expression of the misanthropic ideology of radical Islamism. There is only one term for this: terror. Let’s declare war to terror.”

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Germany does not currently carry out any deportations to Afghanistan or Syria. The German government does not have any diplomatic relations with the Taliban in Kabul, and considers the security situation in Syria too fragile to allow deportations there.

However, the chancellor said in his speech that his government was already working on solutions to enable the deportation of convicted Afghans to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. There have been discussions in Germany about allowing deportations to Syria again.

Scholz also promised that deportation rules for all others who commit or support terrorism will be toughened as well.

It is not clear how fast, if at all, the German government will be able to execute more deportations of criminal foreigners as the country’s cumbersome bureaucracy often slows down any political decisions.

“The time of warnings and condemnations, of denials and announcements, that time is now over,” said Friedrich Merz, the opposition leader from the conservative Christian Democrats. “People expect us to act. They expect decisions.”

Britta Hasselmann, the parliamentary leader of the environmental Greens, which are part of Scholz’ governing coalition, questioned how realistic the chancellor’s deportation plans were.

She said it would be difficult to negotiate a deportation agreement with the Taliban or Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.

“It will have to be (…) examined for which third country it should be attractive to take in terrorists or serious criminals. I am looking forward to seeing what answers we come up with,” she said.

Many Germans initially welcomed migrants when more than 1 million people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq came in 2015-16 following wars and instability in their home countries, but the mood has changed in recent years.

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has successfully exploited some Germans’ concerns about the newcomers. However, in recent months, millions of Germans went out to the streets to protest radical plans by the far-right to deport millions of immigrants, even those with German passports, should they come to power.

A series of scandals involving the party’s top candidates in the European elections pointing to their alleged closeness to Russia and China, as well as one of the party’s top leaders’ repeated use of Nazi slogans, have seen the party slump in recent polls.

Scholz and his Social Democrats as well as other mainstream parties have been trying to depict themselves as tough on migration and radical Islam in hopes that voters won’t turn to AfD to tackle issues related to migration.

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