Germany passes new law to ease deportations

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Germany's Parliament has passed legislation making it easier to deport failed asylum seekers and to monitor those deemed dangerous in a move that has been slammed by opposition parties and rights groups as an assault on the rights of refugees.

In the legislation passed by the Bundestag late Thursday, German authorities will be able to detain migrants due for deportation for 10 days rather than four, and also have the right to use ankle bracelets to monitor those deemed willing and able to commit terrorist attacks. The legislation also restricts the failed asylum seekers' freedom of movement. It grants the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and other government bodies more leeway to use and share data retrieved from the migrants' mobile phones.

Refugee organization Pro Asyl criticized the measures, saying that they rob refugees of their right to privacy. Defending the move, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere referred to the new measures as "a conclusion of efforts to tighten asylum laws in this legislative period."

The measures were decided partly as a response to a truck attack in Berlin in December that killed 12 people. Though attacker Anis Amri's asylum request had failed and he was under surveillance by police, authorities had failed to deport him.

As the national elections are less than five months away, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) temporarily lost support over her government's refugee policies last year. Merkel has long suffered from low popularity, cutting a lonely figure in her struggle for resisting pressure to change her open-door refugee policy. Now, the chancellor's CDU seems to be bucking the pan-European trend of an erosion of support favoring mainstream political parties. Merkel's CDU won a decisive victory in Germany's most populous state over the weekend, an auspicious sign for her chances of re-election in a national poll on Sept. 24. German society has been polarized by the influx of some 890,000 asylum seekers last year, with another 213,000 submitting applications in the first nine months of 2016. Although fewer migrants entered the country in 2016, parties on the far right have called for an immigration cap.

But with the pace of new arrivals slowing sharply, surveys have shown that the conservatives are gaining ground. "The CDU is catching up regionally, and that lends momentum to Merkel ahead of the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia next week and before the national elections this autumn," said Spiegel Online.

The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has railed against the migrant influx, scraped through election day with 5.9 percent support, winning its first seats in the state parliament in Kiel, despite a vicious falling out between the moderates and hardliners inside the party.

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