Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Police in Germany are investigating an alarming series of sexual assaults on women trying to celebrate the New Year by large groups of single men of Arab or North African appearance
Authorities in the city of Cologne are to hold a crisis meeting after police described a group of some 1,000 men who took over the area around the main station on New Year’s Eve. Women were robbed, groped, and had their underwear torn from their bodies, while couples had fireworks thrown at them. Police have received 90 criminal complaints, around a quarter of them for sexual assault, including one case of rape. Police in Hamburg say that there was a series of similar incidents in the city’s Reeperbahn red-light area. Witnesses described groups of five to 15 men of who hunted women in the streets. Although those behind the incidents have not been identified, they have been widely linked with the large influx of asylum-seekers to Germany. One MP from Angela Merkel’s party called for the numbers of refugees in the country to be reduced in the light of the attacks. “It can’t go on like this,” Steffen Bilger wrote on Twitter. “Urgently needed: reduction of influx, secure borders, intensifying of deportations and meaningful justice. #Cologne.” There were allegations of a police cover-up on social media after it took five days for the scale of the incidents to emerge, with some claiming that the authorities wanted to hide the ethnicity of the perpetrators to avoid social tensions. An unidentified male witness said that he and his girlfriend had been surrounded in Cologne by drunk and aggressive men who threatened them and groped her. “They weren’t of European appearance,” he said. “The crimes were committed by a group of people who from appearance were largely from the North African or Arab world,” Wolfgang Albers, the Cologne police chief, said.