“Arab or North African” appearance of organized groups stokes politics of migration and immigration.
This story is the sum of the worst fears about the migrant crisis, and is sure to reverberate widely as more European countries seek to impose border controls.
Germany’s Deutsche Welle reports, String of New Year’s Eve sexual assaults outrages Cologne:
Police in the western German city of Cologne responded on Monday to outrage over a string of sexual crimes over New Year’s Eve. According to police, the series of assaults in one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares represented a “completely new dimension of crime.”
Some 90 criminal complaints, including one allegation of rape, have been brought to the Cologne police department after women said they were molested by a crowd of men who had gathered in the city’s famous square between its central train station and towering Gothic cathedral. Authorities expect more victims to come forward in the next few days.
City police chief Wolfgang Albers said the crowd was composed of up to 1,000 heavily intoxicated men who gave the appearance of being “Arab or North African” in background.
The police chief told German news agency dpa that the incidents represented “an intolerable situation” for Cologne. His department has already assembled a task force to deal with the matter.
The BBC reports that there were similar attacks, though on a smaller scale, in Hamburg:
The scale of the attacks on women at the city’s central railway station has shocked Germany. About 1,000 drunk and aggressive young men were involved.
City police chief Wolfgang Albers called it “a completely new dimension of crime”. The men were of Arab or North African appearance, he said.
Women were also targeted in Hamburg.
But the Cologne assaults – near the city’s iconic cathedral – were the most serious, German media report. At least one woman was raped, and many were groped.
Most of the crimes reported to police were robberies. A volunteer policewoman was among those sexually molested….
What is particularly disturbing is that the attacks appear to have been organised. Around 1,000 young men arrived in large groups, seemingly with the specific intention of carrying out attacks on women.
Already it is a political issue as relates to Germany’s welcome of close to a million migrants this year. The NY Times reports:
Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, warned on Tuesday against linking the assaults to the influx of refugees, saying that the ethnicity of the perpetrators was irrelevant.
“The rule of the law does not look at where someone comes from but what they did,” Mr. Maas told reporters in Berlin. “We will investigate what circles the perpetrators may have come from.”….
Far-right and anti-immigrant groups in Germany, and others who oppose the influx, swiftly seized on the episode, saying it demonstrated the dangers associated with accepting huge numbers of migrants.
Lutz Bachmann, head of the anti-immigrant Pegida movement, accused German leaders on Twitter of complicity in the assault. In a post that named Ms. Merkel; her deputy, Sigmar Gabriel; and other politicians, Mr. Bachmann said, “You are all responsible for the abuse in Cologne!”
The Deutsche Welle article above demonstrates how even police are sensitive to the political implications:
The leader of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of Germany’s main police union, Arnold Plickert, called the crimes “a massive attack on basic rights” and said justice must be seen through even if it has “politically uncomfortable” consequences.
Plickert warned, however, against exploiting the incident to stir up anti-refugee sentiment.
“Any refugees who have a problem integrating into our open society and respecting the rights of other people” must be dealt with using the “full force of the law,” he said, though adding that the public should not forget that “the great majority of the people who have come to us have done so because their lives are no longer safe in their homelands.”
This is a sick joke, right? https://t.co/7uNyBoULwe
— Claire Lehmann (@clairlemon) January 5, 2016
Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, says women should have code of conduct to prevent future assault https://t.co/gjADHToy3X
— Gray Connolly (@GrayConnolly) January 5, 2016