Ordered Deported, Berlin Suspect Slipped Through Germany’s Fingers
By ALISON SMALE, CARLOTTA GALL and GAIA PIANIGIANI DEC. 22, 2016
BERLIN — He left Tunisia, his family said, with dreams of making money and buying a car. After arriving in Italy, he was a violent inmate who spent time in six jails. In Germany, he was one of some 550 people identified as dangers to the state and placed under special surveillance.
Yet Anis Amri, who turned 24 on Thursday, was able to ignore deportation orders and brushes with the law, roaming freely until he apparently hijacked a truck and rammed it into a Christmas market in Berlin this week, killing 12 and wounding dozens. He remains on the run.
After all, what powers do European states have? Especially one as notoriously incompetent as Germany? I mean, whaddaya whaddaya? Governments can’t just go around making people, much less foreigners, obey the law of the land.
Many are trying to integrate. Some are slated for deportation, only to melt into society. By their own intention or because of the authorities’ failings, some, like Mr. Amri, slip through the fingers of law enforcement.
Mr. Amri, who was reported to have used perhaps six aliases, arrived in Germany only after Italy, unable to get Tunisia to take him back, ordered him out. Germany decided this was no refugee from war and refused him asylum over the summer. But he could not be deported without a Tunisian passport, which finally arrived this week — after the Berlin attack.
… Terrorism experts have for years pointed to the lack of an overall strategy to combat terrorism in Germany, where judicial and police authority is highly diffused among 16 states and several separate entities at the federal level.
This structure was created deliberately after World War II, when the Allies and the defeated Germans strove to prevent power from ever being centralized again as it was under the Nazis. But it is not clear that the system serves Germany well now. …
In June, federal officials counted 168,000 people in Germany on a tolerance, many of them from Afghanistan, Syria and the Balkans. Of that total, about 37,000, like Mr. Amri, could not be deported for lack of papers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said.
At their simple one-story home in Oueslatia, a town in midwestern Tunisia, Mr. Amri’s family — he is the youngest of nine, including five sisters — was in disbelief that he could be responsible for driving into a crowd of Christmas shoppers. …
One sister, noting that Mr. Amri had been detained close to the Swiss border over the summer, asked pointedly why, if her brother was involved with dangerous jihadists, the German police had released him after 48 hours.
… Unlikely ever to be granted legal asylum, Mr. Amri apparently grew frustrated. Nineteen at the time, he and two others set fire to the migrant center in a protest against their living conditions and the slowness of Italy’s procedures. Sentenced to four years in prison, he was bounced around six Sicilian penitentiaries for threatening fellow inmates and spurring revolts, according to a document from the Italian Justice Ministry. …
Using various sets of papers, he proved “highly mobile,” Ralf Jäger, the state’s interior minister, said, flitting between at least two state offices for foreigners before apparently living mostly in Berlin.
Already listed as a danger to the state, prosecutors say, Mr. Amri came under special surveillance this year from March to September. Officials had received a federal tip that he might be planning a robbery to get money for automatic weapons that could eventually be used in an attack, the Berlin prosecutors’ office said in a statement.
But, despite monitoring Mr. Amri’s communications and observing him directly, the prosecutors could turn up no more than evidence that he was involved in the drug dealing scene around the city’s notorious Görlitzer Park, where he got into a fight with another dealer in a bar.
Because of Germany’s painful experience with totalitarian government, the threshold for legal surveillance is high, and the prosecutors’ statement said they had had no further justification to keep him under watch.
The police noted his deportation papers and detained him that weekend, but he was ordered released after 48 hours. His lack of Tunisian identity papers meant the German authorities could neither deport nor detain him.