domingo, 10 de janeiro de 2016
Merkel cannot afford to see another Cologne / Financial Times
Merkel cannot afford to see another Cologne
The sex attacks in Germany raise sensitive questions on integration
January 8, 2016
Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than 1m migrants from the Middle East and north Africa to take refuge in Germany has generated deep divisions in her country. Few events have sharpened the debate more acutely than the shocking mass sex attack on women in the city of Cologne on New Year’s eve.
Although the police investigation into the assault is continuing, it is clear that scores of young women in the city were groped and robbed by gangs of men described by the authorities as having a “north African or Arab” appearance. Evidence emerged yesterday that newly arrived asylum seekers were among the hundreds of young men present when the assaults took place. The populist anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland has blamed the outrage on the German chancellor’s “catastrophic asylum and immigration policy”.
The attacks in Cologne seem to have occurred for a variety of reasons. Some blame must lie with the city police, whose chief stepped down yesterday. For years, the local force has allowed thieving gangs to prey around the railway station where the attacks happened. The police trades union says there were too few officers at the scene on December 31, given how many people were expected on the streets.
Other aspects of these crimes cannot be ignored, however. The fact that the overwhelming majority of the assailants were of African and Middle Eastern origin has raised fears about whether young immigrant men are well enough integrated into German society. The huge flow of asylum seekers into the country, which shows no sign of abating in 2016, makes this matter all the more pressing.
Ms Merkel has long expressed concern about the lack of community integration in Germany. She has criticised multiculturalism — the notion that people can live in parallel communities with little or no regard for one another — as a “sham”. Immigrants should never be forced to give up their linguistic, religious and cultural roots. But she is right to insist that all minorities must respect Germany’s basic values, its democratic and human rights and its commitment to religious and sexual equality.
In Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, fostering such integration will require immense patience and resources. Whatever the difficulties, there can be no compromise when crimes are committed by gangs of any race or religion, Muslim or otherwise. Britain has recently witnessed a number of incidents in which city authorities refrained for a while from denouncing child abuse by male gangs of Pakistani heritage for fear of inflaming racial prejudice. In the case of Cologne, there appears to have been a similar failure. The German police and national media were too slow to publicise the attacks, anxious perhaps not to fuel sentiment against foreigners.
The events in Cologne will inevitably throw a fresh spotlight on the generous stance that Ms Merkel has taken over the refugee crisis. Her approach is courageous and admirable. As the world looks on with horror this weekend at the images of people starving in the Syrian town of Madaya, overblown criticism of a great European nation as it embraces people fleeing conflict is misplaced.
The German government cannot be complacent, however, as it manages the immense movement of migrants on to its territory. Ms Merkel’s open door policy will only work if it is accompanied by a concentrated effort at integration which preserves her nation’s postwar values. Germany — and its chancellor — cannot tolerate another Cologne.