MAINZ, Germany, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is in favor of tougher deportation laws after dozens of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve, allegedly committed by asylum seekers.
Twenty one people, reportedly of African and Middle Eastern origin, are under investigation for alleged sex crimes.. Outraged German residents are calling into question Merkel's open-door immigration policies and historically soft stance on deportation.
Current legislation only permits forced deportation for asylum seekers who are sentenced to more than three years in prison and whose lives are not at risk in their home countries.
Merkel openly supported a change in this policy for the first time while speaking at a meeting of the Christian Democrats party in Mainz.
"The question that arises after Cologne is when do you lose your right to stay with us?" she said. "I have to say that, for me, we must take it away sooner. We must do this for us - and for the many refugees who were not part of the events in Cologne. I think there are indications that changes must happen."
Merkel and her party members are considering a new policy that would allow deportation for immigrants jailed for any amount of time in Germany.
Merkel's lax stance on immigration, which allowed more than 1.1 million people to enter the country in 2015 has faced strong opposition from anti-immigration movement Pegida and Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico who said, "The idea of a multicultural Europe has failed."
The North-Rhine Westphalia police have also faced harsh criticism for their treatment of the incidents after police reported the New Year's Eve festivities were "largely peaceful", which ultimately led to the suspension of police chief Wolfgang Abers.