Cologne divided over who to blame for assaults

2016-01-07 13:34
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cologne - Amid widespread shock over a string of sexual assaults in this cosmopolitan German city on New Year's Eve, the response is divided - blame the police or chide the victims, deport criminal foreigners or prevent migrants from entering the country in the first place.

The reaction in Cologne reflects a broader debate as Germany struggles to reconcile law and order with its new-found role as a haven for those seeking a better life.

Police descriptions of the perpetrators as of "Arab or North African origin" were seized on by those calling for an end to Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy toward people fleeing violence and persecution - even as authorities warned they don't know if any of the culprits are refugees.

Sexual assault

Adding to the controversy were remarks by Cologne's mayor, Henriette Reker, suggesting that women can protect themselves from strange men on the streets by keeping them "more than an arm's length" away - words that were widely ridiculed on social media for putting the onus on the victims.

At least 106 women have come forward to file criminal complaints of sexual assault and robbery during the New Year's Eve festivities, authorities said, including two accounts of rape.

The attacks were seized on by opponents of Germany's welcoming stance toward those fleeing conflict.

"This is where Merkel's irresponsible immigration policy will lead us," declared Thorsten Craemer of the far-right fringe party ProNRW, which staged a small rally in front of Cologne's main train station, the site of the attacks. "There will be battles for resources, confrontations far worse than what we've experienced on New Year's Eve."

His fellow activists - fewer than 10 in total - were far outnumbered by counter-demonstrators shouting them down with slogans such as "East or West, down with the Nazi plague."

Difficult task

Germany was one of the few European countries to welcome the influx of refugees last year. Many Germans cheered as weary Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis stepped off trains in Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg last summer and tens of thousands have volunteered to help the new arrivals.

That euphoria has given way to the realisation that integrating the nearly 1.1 million people who came to Germany last year will be a long and difficult task, even as many Germans have been heartened by Merkel's mantra, "We can do this."

Among the angles police are investigating is whether there are any links to similar crimes committed over the past two years by men suspected to be of North African origin in the nearby city of Duesseldorf, about 40km away.


Read more on:    germany

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.