Tough Decisions

German court OKs deportations to Tunisia despite death penalty

deportations germany asylum seekers
Anti-terror raid that captured Haikel S. Source: DPA

Germany’s constitutional court on Monday denied an appeal from a suspected Islamic State member who was trying to avoid deportation to Tunisia, saying the threat of the death penalty was not likely to be realized.

Haikel S.’s lawyer filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, but judges in Strasbourg declined to intervene Monday. The ruling paves the way for more deportations of people considered “terrorist threats.” German law prevents deportation if the suspect would face the death penalty or life without parole in the destination country, but Tunisia has not executed anyone since 1991.

Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the ruling. “It is a judgment that gives us clarity and makes the enforcement of rights possible,” she said. It could bring a conclusion to the case of Sami A., a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden who has so far avoided deportation to Tunisia.

The decision is definitely a win for Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister and leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, who is thinking about the state’s election in October. He has been trying to speed up deportations since he came into office in March and is currently creating a plan for “anchor centers” to process asylum seekers more efficiently.

“It is a judgment that gives us clarity and makes the enforcement of rights possible.”

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

The project is part of the coalition pact that the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed upon in March. Mr. Seehofer says the anchor centers would swiftly take in and process refugees, and direct them out of Germany if necessary. Critics call anchor centers a euphemism for concentration camps and point to the recent uprising in Ellwangen, where asylum seekers prevented police from taking a man slated to be deported last week.

Authorities in Germany and Tunisia believe Haikel S. was involved in the 2015 Bardo Museum attack, where Islamic State supporters killed 22 people and injured dozens more. He initially came to Germany in 2003 as a student, and after being deported returned in 2015, claiming to be a refugee from Syria. He was captured in an anti-terror raid in 2017 and is currently in a Frankfurt jail awaiting deportation.

Ms. Merkel’s cabinet is expected to wrap up another sticking point this week and cap the number of family members allowed to follow immigrants to Germany at 1,000 per month.

Heike Anger is a correspondent in the parliamentary editorial office of Handelsblatt in Berlin. Moritz Koch is a senior Handelsblatt correspondent in Berlin. Grace Dobush is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. DPA contributed to this report. To contact the authors: anger@handelsblatt.com, koch@handelsblatt.com, grace.dobush@gmail.com 

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