DUBAI: In a sign that Germany's conservative political parties may tighten immigration rules, the government has said it is considering whether to allow the deportation of some Syrian asylum seekers back to their home country.
The interior ministry said on Friday it is examining whether Syrian refugees who commit crimes or support terror organizations should be deported back to Syria, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Such deportations are currently banned.
Germany is currently governed by a coalition of three parties - the conservative CDU/CSU and the SPD.
Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, and his counterparts in Germany's 16 states are set to discuss how to deal with refugees who commit crimes at a meeting at the end of November, the Wall Street Journal report said.
Among the issues to be addressed will be whether to end or extend the deportation ban for Syrians after it expires at the end of December.
"If the security situation permits, it should be possible to deport (to Syria) criminals or people who pose a terror-related risk," Roland Woller, interior minister of Saxony state, told a group of regional dailies on Friday.
Woller's statement came after a similar argument by Joachim Herrmann, his counterpart in Bavaria, in an interview this week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Merkel, 64, announced late last month she will relinquish chairmanship of the conservative CDU next month, and will not run again for the country's top post in 2021, or any political office.
Merkel, who has led the CDU for 18 years and Germany for 13, said her decision was aimed at giving her party the opportunity "to get ready for the time after me".
Far-right politicians began demanding changes in the deportation policy since Merkel's announcement.
Most Syrians in Germany are treated as war refugees rather than victims of persecution, meaning that they get a renewable one-year visa and are not entitled to bring family members to Germany.
However, Syrians who choose to return home face daunting prospects: large expanses of the country have been reduced to rubble and the economy is a shambles.
Those considering gone home are also discouraged by reports of returnees being targeted by militias loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Since Germany allowed in 2015 hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the country, most Syrians who have sought asylum in the country have been granted protection.
While Afghans, Iraqis and other refugees who commit serious crimes or become identified as terror suspects can be deported, Syrians who have not been granted asylum remain exempt, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
According to an explainer in the German news website DW, because non-Germans must have some kind of residency permit to be allowed to stay in Germany, refugees and asylum seekers are issued with temporary permits while their applications are being considered.
If they have had their asylum applications turned down, they no longer have the right to stay in Germany, and are obligated to leave the country by a set deadline (no longer than six months).
If that deadline has passed, they may be forcibly deported to their country of origin, the DW report says.
People whose residency permits have expired, or have not had it extended by authorities, are also subject to deportation. The same is true of non-Germans who have been convicted of a crime.
But there are different rules depending on the severity of the crime. anyone sentenced to at least three years in prison must be deported, but in the case of people who have been sentenced to less severe crimes, or are simply deemed a threat to public order and safety, the decision on whether to deport or not is up to the authority in question.