Germany will relax its restrictions on deporting foreign criminals after an unprecedented wave of mob sex assaults in Cologne and other cities on New Year's Eve.

Germany's Justice Ministry announced new measures Tuesday to allow it to more easily deport migrants found guilty of crimes causing death or serious injury, sexual or physical assaults, or resisting police officers.

Previously, migrants to Germany could be deported only if they were found guilty of crimes punishable by a sentence of one year or more.

In a statement, the ministry said the new rules would allow authorities to deport criminals more swiftly.

Germany has been reeling after a crime wave in Cologne on New Year's Eve. Large numbers of women reported being sexually assaulted or robbed by gangs of men of Arab or North African appearance during celebrations in the city center, with some victims saying they feared for their lives.

Cologne police said Monday that there had been 553 criminal complaints stemming from that night, about 40% of which relate to sexual assaults.

At least 31 people, most from North African or Middle Eastern countries, have been charged so far over the attacks, police say. Of those, 18 have been identified as asylum seekers.

'Rapefugees not welcome'

The assaults have fueled the already heated debate over immigration in Germany, which has taken in the bulk of migrants creating a crisis on Europe's borders, and have sparked furious protests around the country.

A rally organized by a chapter of anti-Muslim organization PEGIDA saw protesters march through the streets of Leipzig, a city in eastern Germany, on Monday night, blaming the sex assaults on migrants.

Some chanted "Deport them!" while others waved signs demanding that refugees be sent home.

"Rapefugees not welcome," read one banner, which showed a silhouette of a woman running from a mob.

A sign read "Islamists not welcome," while another poster depicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel being groped.

Leipzig police spokeswoman Maria Braunsdorf told CNN that police had surrounded at least 250 right-wing extremists after some local businesses were ransacked. Many wore face masks to shield their identity, which is against the law in Germany, she said.

Nearby, counter-demonstrators came out in force to show their support for the refugees. One banner read, "Willkommen in Leipzig" -- Welcome to Leipzig.

Courtesy CNN