Germany Goes Hard on Security

Police in Saarland arrest a Syrian refugee over an alleged car bomb plot while the German Interior Ministry lays out plans to overhaul the country’s security apparatus
German Interior Minister Thomas de MaiziereGerman Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere

German authorities said on Monday that police had arrested a Syrian man who had allegedly asked the IS terrorist group to fund an attack using explosives-packed vehicles.

The unemployed 38-year-old with refugee status had urged an IS contact via mobile phone message service Telegram to send him €180,000, said prosecutors, the news website reported.

Police commandos raided his apartment in Saarbrucken near the French border around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, New Year’s Eve. He was detained before being formally arrested on terror financing charges on Sunday.

The man’s “as yet undefined attack scenario” suggested the use of explosives-packed vehicles in Germany, France, Belgium and The Netherlands, said police.

It named the suspect as Hasan A. and said his contact was located in the militant group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria.

The man had entered Germany in December 2014 and applied for asylum in January 2015, obtaining refugee status and a residency permit, prosecutors said in a statement.

The man had in December 2016 asked an IS contact in Syria to send him the money “so he could purchase vehicles which he could load with explosives and which he wanted to drive into crowds ... and blow up in order to kill unknown numbers of people who do not follow the Muslim faith”.

  Plans for Federal Deportation Centers

Two weeks on from the truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Monday began laying out plans to overhaul the country’s asylum policy and security apparatus.

In an op-ed published in Tuesday’s edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, de Maiziere said he had already presented a draft bill that would allow the state to detain and deport asylum seekers suspected of posing a security threat.

“I propose that the federal government be granted greater powers to renounce residency permits,” de Maiziere wrote. That way, deportations would be “directly carried out” by the federal government, rather than the individual states.

The Christian Democrat politician wrote that he seeks to build federal deportation centers. Rejected asylum seekers would, therefore, be passed on from the centers run by states to those run by the federal government.

Berlin has long tried to push the German states to speed up deportations. However, the debate has intensified following the attack in Berlin on December 19, in which 12 people were killed.

  Increasing Federal Government’s Powers

De Maiziere’s deportation proposal comes as part of a wider overhaul of Germany’s security structure that would expand the federal government’s powers at the expense of individual states.

In addition to state-level policing, police forces acting at the federal level would be responsible for investigating and prosecuting unauthorized residents in Germany, thereby slowly establishing what de Maiziere labeled “a real federal police force”.

“Those who seek to undermine our internal security don’t seek to do so in just one state,” de Maiziere wrote.

Similarly, the interior minister also proposed increasing federal powers to combat cyber attacks, proposing the creation of a national cyber defense center.

Coupled with this, de Maiziere called for “sound legal bases” to carry out countermeasures and counterattacks in the event of a cyber threat.

De Maiziere has also proposed expanding the “far too restrictive” powers of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

“We require common rules and better coordination, for example, when it comes to protecting the more vulnerable,” he added.

“The federal government requires a leading authority that oversees all other security bodies,” thereby allowing the federal government, BKA and the individual states to cooperate on all federal security matters.

  Shielding Europe From Crises

The interior minister also used the op-ed as an opportunity to criticize Europe’s “inadequate” refugee and asylum policies.

“We need a robust mechanism against mass inflows that will protect Europe whenever and wherever the next migrant crisis occurs,” de Maiziere wrote.

He called on the European Union to loosen the definition of “secure third countries” in which to settle refugees in its migrant directive. Only then could the EU strike a migrant deal with the North African countries, from which thousands of migrants attempt to flee to Europe every day.

De Maiziere said the EU should look to partner countries in the UNHCR as potential “secure third countries.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under increased pressure ahead of this year’s national election, following her now-controversial decision in 2015 to allow almost one million Middle Eastern refugees to settle in the country.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party has directly blamed her “open door” policy for the December 19 attack in Berlin.

Merkel has said she felt sickened by the prospect of refugees committing terror attacks in Germany. In her New Year’s speech, she called terrorism “without a doubt the most difficult test” facing Germany.


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