Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday backed a sharp toughening of expulsion rules for convicted refugees, saying that even those who have been given suspended sentences should be required to leave Germany.

"If a refugee flouts the rules, then there must be consequences, that means that they can lose their residence right here regardless of whether they have a suspended sentence or a prison sentence," she said.

"If the law does not suffice, then the law must be changed," said Merkel, amid outrage over a shocking rash of sexual assaults on New Year's festivities in Cologne blamed on migrants.

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