Deport Syrian migrants, says would-be Merkel successor
One of the frontrunners to succeed Angela Merkel as leader of her political party has called for Germany to deport migrants to Syria.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said asylum-seekers whose claims are rejected or who commit crimes could be returned to the war-torn country.
"Certain regions of Syria could be secure enough in the foreseeable future," she told 'Bild' newspaper.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is popularly known in Germany as "mini-Merkel", is widely seen as Ms Merkel's preferred successor as party leader.
But she has been at pains to distance herself from the chancellor's controversial migrant policy in her bid for the leadership of the Christian Democrat party (CDU).
Germany currently bans deportations to Syria because of the situation there. The German foreign ministry is set to reassess the policy by the end of this month, but an internal memo leaked to the German press warns: "It is extremely challenging to get first-hand reliable information about the situation in the country."
The German embassy in Damascus is currently closed and the country is deemed too dangerous for diplomats to visit.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer's comments are a clear attempt to avoid being seen as a Merkel continuity candidate in the race for the CDU leadership.
She has also called for asylum-seekers who commit crimes in Germany to be barred from the entire Schengen Area. Ms Merkel will step down as CDU party leader in December but says she wants to see out her current term as chancellor, which ends in 2021.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer currently has a narrow lead with the general electorate, according to opinion polls, but the new leader will be chosen by delegates at the CDU party conference in December.
As Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer strives to avoid being seen as too close to Ms Merkel, her closest competitor is working equally hard not to be seen as too close to the populist right.
Friedrich Merz, who is just behind her in the opinion polls, went on the attack against the nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), describing them as "openly Nazi". (©Daily Telegraph, London)