Germany to loosen blanket block on deportations to Syria

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BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s blanket halt to all deportations to Syria that has been in place since 2012 will expire at the end of this year, but it’s not clear that much will change in practice.

The interior ministers of Germany’s 16 states failed to agree Thursday on another extension to the block on all deportations, meaning that in 2021, authorities will be able to examine the possibility of deporting people in individual cases.

Officials from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc had called for the change, arguing that authorities should be able to at least consider deporting those who commit serious crimes or get involved in terrorism, and that a blanket deportation ban sent the wrong signal.

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer urged a review of the policy after an attack Oct. 4 in Dresden in which two men were stabbed, one of them fatally.

A young Syrian man who arrived in Germany in 2015 and had been convicted of trying to recruit for the Islamic State group is the suspect in that case, which prosecutors are investigating as a possible act of terrorism. His refugee status had been revoked.

Center-left officials who advocated keeping the block on deportations argue that they still aren’t feasible as Syria’s civil war continues. Boris Pistorius, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, said loosening the policy was to some extent “populist” and pointed to major practical problems.

Germany has no direct flights to Syria and no diplomatic relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, he noted.

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