German interior minister proposes domestic security shake-up

AP News
Posted: Jan 03, 2017 3:53 AM
German interior minister proposes domestic security shake-up

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's interior minister is proposing a security shake-up that could include creating "federal departure centers" to ease the deportation of rejected asylum-seekers and centralizing the country's domestic intelligence agency.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere's suggestions in a guest article Tuesday in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung followed last month's attack on a Berlin Christmas market.

The government has promised to examine whether laws need to be changed following the Dec. 19 attack that killed 12 people, in which a failed Tunisian asylum-seeker is the prime suspect. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The proposals from de Maiziere, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, center on giving federal authorities greater power on domestic security issues — responsibility for which is spread between the federal government and 16 state governments.

Deportations are currently the responsibility of state authorities. De Maiziere called for better cooperation on the matter, suggesting federally run "departure centers" close to airports that could handle deportees in their "final days or weeks" in Germany.

Each state currently has its own branch of the domestic intelligence agency, in addition to its federal office. De Maiziere called for a discussion of putting it entirely under federal control, and also urged greater powers for the federal police to conduct traffic controls away from border areas.

At European Union level, de Maiziere advocated a "real mass influx mechanism" to enable quicker handling of large numbers of migrants. He argued that countries should be considered safe if there's a "safe place" there with "humane and safe reception conditions," for example at facilities that the EU could be partly responsible for.

It remains to be seen how much traction de Maiziere's ideas will gain. A national election is expected in September and the conservatives' main rivals, the center-left Social Democrats, are part of the current governing coalition.