sábado, 9 de janeiro de 2016

Frau Merkel invited me’ / Cologne police chief forced out

Frau Merkel invited me’
Chancellor’s refugee policy under strain after Cologne sex attacks.


BERLIN — Public fury over the sexual assault of dozens of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve exploded into a political crisis for Angela Merkel following reports Thursday that asylum seekers were among the attackers.

Outrage over the attacks, including two alleged rapes, has been building all week but reached fever pitch after a police report describing the events revealed that asylum seekers were among the perpetrators. Authorities said previously they had no indication those behind the assaults were refugees, describing the suspects as “North African.”

“During identity checks, the vast majority could only provide their asylum-seeker registration papers,” an excerpt of the report published by Die Welt said. The paper quoted an officer who claimed the majority of the roughly 80 individuals checked were of Syrian origin. The head of federal police union confirmed in an interview with German television late Thursday that refugees were involved.

The revelations are a setback for the German leader. Merkel succeeded in restoring a degree of confidence in her controversial migration policies in December by presenting a strategy aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and devoting more resources to integrating the more than 1 million who arrived in 2015.

The Cologne attacks, coupled with fresh evidence that the influx of new arrivals has not slowed, has put her back on the defensive.

Losing the center

The biggest danger to Merkel isn’t from the far-right, which will use the attacks to hammer its anti-immigration message, but from the center. Throughout the refugee crisis, Merkel has retained the solid backing of centrist voters. The assaults, which have inflamed passions even among moderates, could change that.

Women who are on the street at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. are considered whores and German women are generally considered open game” Social Democrat Heinz Buschkowski

For many Germans, the events in Cologne have confirmed suspicions that men from the Middle East do not respect the independence and freedom that Western women enjoy.

“They have a completely different view of women than we do here,” Heinz Buschkowski, a prominent Social Democrat and expert on Germany’s Muslim population, told German radio Thursday. “Women who are on the street at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. are considered whores and German women are generally considered fair game.”

Such views, which evoke old stereotypes of dark-skinned men out to prey on white women, have mainly been shared behind closed doors in recent months as Germans embraced the Willkommenskultur. The Cologne attacks have brought the concerns into the open.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière was asked at a news conference whether he was “concerned about the view of women among migrants.”

De Maizière dodged the question, saying it was essential that the refugees “recognize our system of values,” including the equality between men and women.

The minster, who oversees the federal police but not local forces, was caught off-guard by the attacks. He criticized the local police for not doing more to respond.

Over the past few days, a parade of senior government officials has called for stricter measures to deal with such violence, including deporting the perpetrators.

“We need to look at whether we have done everything that is necessary in terms of necessitating departures in order to send a clear signal to those who aren’t willing to follow our laws,” Merkel said Thursday.

Yet the demands for quick deportations appear unrealistic. German law makes it difficult to deport criminal asylum seekers, especially if they could face retribution in their home countries. Regarding the Cologne attacks, several police officials said it would likely be impossible to positively identify those responsible due to the large number of people at the scene.

With such a large population of refugees, many of whom are young men, authorities warn that further assaults are inevitable.

Earlier this week the mayor of Cologne, herself the victim of a brutal stabbing attack last year over her support of refugees, urged women to maintain an “arm’s length distance” from men in crowds. She was widely ridiculed for the suggestion.

What has shocked many in the country is the location of the attacks. Cologne is considered one of the most open and liberal cities in Germany.”

On Thursday, German authorities disclosed details of another alleged rape on New Year’s Eve involving Syrian refugees. Two teenage girls, aged 14 and 15, told police they were repeatedly raped by a group of four Syrians in the south of the country.

Such cases could lead to further violence against refugees. Earlier this week unknown assailants fired shots into a shelter near Frankfurt, injuring one refugee. Arsonists attacked hundreds of shelters last year.

The German public, meanwhile, is getting nervous. Nearly 40 percent of German women plan to avoid large public gatherings, according to a poll released Thursday by public broadcaster ARD.

Attack on liberal heartland

What has shocked many in the country is the location of the attacks. Cologne is considered one of the most open and liberal cities in Germany. Its annual carnival celebrations, which get under way in just a few weeks, draw thousands of revelers to the city.

That the mass attacks could have occurred in front of the city’s main landmark — its nearly seven-century-old gothic cathedral — is unthinkable to many.

Cologne’s “way of life is in danger,” the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine warned on its front page Thursday.

The police report on the Cologne attacks, which was written by a senior official at the scene, describes a chaotic situation in which the officers found themselves outnumbered by “several thousand men.” Police were largely powerless to protect the women, who were forced to navigate an “obstacle course through a mass of severely drunk men that is beyond description.”

Though the police questioned dozens of suspects, they made only a handful of arrests, none of which were connected to the sexual assaults. Witnesses reported that some of the assailants shouted “f**k the police” and spat at officers.

In the report, one suspect is quoted as saying: “I’m Syrian, you have to treat me nicely. Frau Merkel invited me.”

Cologne police chief forced out

Government confirms asylum seekers are among those suspected of New Year assaults.


BERLIN — Asylum seekers were among those suspected of involvement in mass sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, the German government said Friday, as the fallout from the attacks resulted in the local police chief being forced to resign.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry said the federal police had identified 31 suspects, including nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians and four Syrians. Of the 31 alleged attackers, 18 were said to be asylum seekers. Three of the 31 have been charged with sexual assault.

Friday’s announcement was the first official confirmation that asylum seekers were involved, following leaked police reports in German media. According to local broadcaster WDR, the local Cologne police force took down the names of 71 suspects on New Year’s Eve, of which the majority “could only identify themselves with their registration receipt issued by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which identified them as asylum seekers.”

Policing in Germany is split between the federal police — who in this case were responsible for law enforcement inside Cologne’s main train station and just outside its doors — and the state police. The Cologne local force forms part of the state police.

Friday’s statement only deals with the area covered by the federal police.

The state police have recorded 170 complaints of crimes, 117 of which involve sexual assault. There were two allegations of rape.

Security stand guard as supporters of Pro NRW, a right-wing, populist group carry out a protest following the New Year's Eve sex attacks

Police at all levels have come in for criticism for their handling of the attacks. On Friday evening, Wolfgang Albers, 60, the chief of the Cologne local force, was forced to take early retirement.

Senior police officials allegedly withheld information about the nationalities of the suspects out of fear that releasing such information would have been “politically delicate,” according to a report by local newspaper Kölner Stadtanzeiger.

A leaked report by the federal police, written on January 4, whose authenticity has been confirmed by the German government, describes the failure of the police to control the situation, saying they were “not able to control all events, infringements, criminal offenses, etc., there were just too many happening at the same time.”

“Over the course of the operation, numerous crying and shocked women/girls came up to the officers and told them about sexual assaults by several male migrants/groups of migrants,” the report said adding “identification [of attackers] was not possible.”


Janosch Delcker  

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