Germany plans tough security measures

Flowers left in memory of victims of a shooting rampage near the Olympia mall in Munich last month. Germany has increased security measures in the wake of a series of terror attacks.
Flowers left in memory of victims of a shooting rampage near the Olympia mall in Munich last month. Germany has increased security measures in the wake of a series of terror attacks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Proposed moves include fast-track deportations and citizenship loss for terrorists with dual nationality

BERLIN • Following a spate of terror attacks in Germany and neighbouring nations, the country's interior minister proposed new security measures yesterday including fast-track deportations and a bid to strip citizenship from Germans with dual nationality who fight for a terror group.

The push amounts to the most direct response in Germany to a string of terror attacks, including two by asylum seekers who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It also underscores the shift in Germany and other European nations, such as France and Belgium, to retool policing and counter-terrorism powers amid rising threats from militants.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere vowed to increase security personnel, provide police with better equipment, and boost cyber security. On the policing front, staffing will be raised with 4,600 new posts created over the next year. In addition, spending on security would be increased by €2 billion (S$3 billion) by 2020.

"Germans who participate in fighting abroad for a terror militia and who have another citizenship should lose their German nationality," Mr de Maiziere said, pointing to legislation that already allows for citizens with dual nationalities and who fight for a foreign army to be stripped of German citizenship.

The proposal and some others he outlined would ultimately need approval in Parliament after further discussions among party officials.

Meanwhile, rejected asylum seekers who deliberately delay or resist deportation would face sharply reduced benefits and immediate attempts to eject them from the country. "It can't be the case that by acting brash and impertinent, a person's stay in Germany can be prolonged," Mr de Maiziere said.

He rejected two measures seeking a ban on full face coverings for women as well as the abolition of dual citizenship. Both ideas were floated by officials from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its sister party, the Christian Social Union. "You can't ban everything you're against," said Mr de Maiziere.

He must now engage in a round of negotiations with coalition partners to form a consensus around the new measures,some of which face potential opposition.

One measure coming under fire is an effort to allow doctors constrained by confidentiality laws to report potentially dangerous patients to the authorities.

A confidential psychological report on 27-year-old asylum seeker Mohammad Daleel - who blew himself up outside a music festival in Ansbach last month - described him as capable of staging a "spectacular" suicide, according to the Bild tabloid. Yet, patient confidentiality laws may have influenced the amount of information passed on to the authorities.

Mr de Maiziere announced a plan to find a way around the law so doctors could more easily inform the authorities about patients planning to commit crime. German Medical Association head Frank Ulrich Montgomery has rejected any move to soften doctor-patient confidentiality, but Mr de Maiziere said he would try to engage doctors to find a compromise.

The link to migrants has put intense pressure on Dr Merkel over her liberal asylum policies that brought 1.1 million refugees to Germany last year.

With two state elections next month - in Dr Merkel's stronghold Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and in Berlin - concern is growing among the political mainstream that populist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), could make record gains ahead of the general election next year. Mr de Maiziere said the latest anti- terror measures should be adopted before the autumn 2017 elections.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Germany plans tough security measures'. Print Edition | Subscribe