“We have … made progress this year on the very important issue of deporting Tunisian citizens who have no right to stay in Germany,” Merkel said during a press conference on Friday. “I told the Tunisian president that we have to significantly speed up the deportation process and increase the number of people sent back,” she added.
The chancellor also stressed that the government would introduce changes to the legislation to enhance national security after the Berlin Christmas market truck attack.
“The government will immediately develop and implement all necessary measures wherever [we] see a need for political or legislative changes,” Merkel said, as cited by Der Spiegel.
She also stressed that Germany still faces a serious terrorist threat that requires active countermeasures from the government, promising to “do everything that is humanly possible” to ensure that Germany remains “a strong state.”
“Our democracy, our rule of law and our values and compassion stand in contrast with the hateful world of terrorism,” she said.
In her speech, Merkel also partly echoed the words of German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who said earlier on Friday that he would immediately start consultations with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on possible changes in German security and migration policy.
The consultations will particularly focus on the “issue of repatriating those who are subject to expulsion as soon as possible” as well as on “better monitoring of those who may pose a threat to national security,” he told the German media.
De Maiziere also emphasized the necessity of changes in the legislation relating to the migration policy and stressed that he had already introduced a bill envisaging easier repatriation procedures for rejected asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, who is also a close ally of Merkel, demanded a strict ID check of all refugees in Germany. In an interview with the German Die Welt am Sonntag weekly, Seehofer criticized the current refugee registration system, saying that it often involves only formal procedures that give no insight into an asylum seeker’s background.
The politician then demanded that the German domestic security service, the BfV, take part in the refugee registration procedures while other German security services make additional checks of the refugees’ documents.
German politicians made their statements after the Berlin attack suspect was confirmed dead, following a shootout in the Italian city of Milan. The death of Anis Amri, a Tunisian national wanted after the truck attack on the Berlin market, was confirmed by Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti.
Merkel responded to the reports of Amri’s death by saying that she is relieved to know that the “immediate danger is over.” At the same time, she stressed that Amri’s case still “raises a significant number of questions” and added that the investigation will continue.
“If there are any further accomplices [in this crime], we will bring them to justice,” she said.
In the meantime, the latest polls show that Germans are also disappointed with the government’s handling of the situation after the Christmas market attack. Public support for German establishment parties is falling, while support for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is surging.
According to the poll conducted by the German INSA fund this week, two major German parties that together form the ruling coalition – Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democrats – lost about 1 percentage point each.
The CDU, alongside its Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union, together received 31.5 percentage points in the poll, while the Social Democrats received support from 20.5 percent of Germans. At the same time, support for the AfD has once again risen to 15.5 percent almost equaling the party’s September record of 16 percent.
The Amri case also once again sparked criticism from Euroskeptic politicians and fueled the debate about the EU open borders policy. Beppe Grillo, head of the Italian anti-establishment Five Star Movement, joined Marine Le Pen of France, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, and Nigel Farage of the UK, in slamming Europe’s handing of the border control issue.
The Berlin terrorist attack was the result of a migrant crisis that was “out of control,” he said, adding that it is “crazy” that two ordinary police officers should risk their lives to deal with a terrorist “wanted by half of Europe,” as reported by the Guardian.