Friday

26th May 2017

Sex assaults enflame German migration debate

Scores of alleged sexual assaults and robberies against women on New Year’s Eve, reportedly by young men of “Arab and Northern African” appearance, has enflamed Germany’s debate on welcoming migrants.

The seemingly coordinated attacks took place at Cologne’s railway station on Thursday (31 December), when gangs of drunken men allegedly emerged from a larger crowd and began the attacks against female revellers.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

One woman filed a complaint for rape. Another 90 women were either robbed or molested, police say.

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers on Tuesday (5 January) told press the men looked as if they were from "the Arab or North African region" and mostly between 18 and 35 years old, Reuters reports.

He made clear there were no individual suspects yet and therefore no firm grounds to speak of their geographic origin.

Germany chancellor Angela Merkel called the attacks “disgusting assaults” and urged the assailants to be brought quickly to justice.

Around 150 people gathered in front of Cologne's cathedral on Tuesday evening to protest against the events, Reuters adds.

'General suspicion'

Germany’s top politicians tried to calm public tempers by urging people not to condemn immigrants en bloc.

But others, who are less supportive of the government’s welcoming policy on migrants, said cultural differences between Germans and immigrants should not be concealed.

Europe’s economic power house saw over 1 million migrants arrive in the country last year, mostly people from Middle Eastern countries fleeing war and poverty.

Official data shows the crime rate among immigrants is not higher than among native Germans.

But there are almost daily attacks on refugee shelters.

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere, form Merkel's CDU party, on Tuesday warned that immigrants as a whole should not be placed under “general suspicion”.

But he conceded that such a large number of people, apparently with an immigrant background, appear to have committed the Cologne attacks represents a new dimension to the problem.

Others in the Bavarian CSU party, the sister party of the CDU, which is critical of her open-door policy, sounded a different note.

Stephan Mayer, the CSU interior affairs spokesman, said it would be “fatal” to remain silent when such crimes came from people “to whom we have granted a generous welcome in our country”, according to the Financial Times.

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has gained in polls in part thanks to a campaign against refugees, called for closing of Germany’s borders.

“Mrs Merkel, is Germany 'colourful and cosmopolitan' enough for you after the wave of crimes and sexual attacks?” AfD chief Frauke Petry tweeted.

Talking to a Cologne newspaper, Petry added, the violence is “the consequence of an uncontrolled migration”.

Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, while saying there was no reason to believe the attackers were refugees, pledged for new security measures to prevent such assaults, by increasing police numbers at big events and installing more security cameras.

The German city will hold carnival celebrations next month, which attract thousands of tourists.

In October, Reker was seriously hurt when she was stabbed during her campaign for the mayoral post due to her support for refugees.

Analysis

How Cologne assaults stunned authorities and media

The revelation and coverage of mass sexual assaults on women on New Year's Eve demonstrate the challenges in Germany's debates on integration, political correctness, and sexism.

Merkel: Sexual assaults raise 'serious questions'

The German chancellor has said "the fundamentals of cultural co-existence" must be discussed, as more cases of assault by alleged migrants are reported in Cologne and other European cities.

Opinion

Development serving the purpose of migration control

While the EU is sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests, it is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

Italian refugee centre allegedly run by mafia

One of Italy's most powerful mafia syndicates, the 'Ndrangheta, allegedly stole over €32 million from a refugee centre run by a Catholic charity in southern Italy.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms