Following a string of sex offences allegedly carried out by asylum seekers in Cologne, Angela Merkel announced that she will support stricter legislation on deporting immigrants as far-right activists marched in Cologne.
As declared by some of the victims, hordes of men of north African or Arab descent reported having robbed, threatened or sexually assaulted 121 women as revellers partied close to the city’s Gothic cathedral. Notably, 32 people are involved of taking part in the violence on New Year’s Eve, 22 of which are in the process of looking for refuge. Out of the 32 suspected attackers, nine were Algerian, eight Moroccan, five Iranian and four Syrian. Three German citizens, an Iraqi, a Serb and a US citizen were also pinpointed.
Amateur videos of the night show factions of young men jumping around frantically, shooting fireworks into the crowd and pushing onlookers. A detailed police report on the New Year’s eve is due in the coming days.Similar attacks took place in seven other German cities as well. After Cologne, Hamburg seems to have been the worst affected.
German cops had to use water cannons on Saturday to avert clashes between the advocates of Germany’s far-right PEGIDA movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident or in German: Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) and a counter-demonstration led by anti-fascists.
Supporters of PEGIDA are saying that the sex attacks are a testimony that Merkel’s liberal migrant policy is cracking, and the local far-right group Pro NRW arrived in the city’s main square early afternoon. Brandishing German colors and signs showing “Rapefugees not welcome”, “Germany survived war, plague and cholera, but Merkel?”, they shouted “Merkel out”. At least 1,300 anti-Pegida activists held a counter-rally, shouting “Nazis out”.
Under the present laws, refugees are only forcibly sent back if they have been convicted to prison terms of minimum three years and if their life is not in danger in their countries of origin. On Saturday leaders of Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats Union (CDU) held a meeting in the city of Mainz to contemplate stricter penalties for attacks against police and emergency responders and about the withdrawal of asylum seeker status for anybody convicted to a non-bail able prison term. The CDU leaders settled on a proposal to ban refugees who had been condemned of felonies from being given asylum. CDU leaders also reportedly complied to back powers that would reinforce the police ability to check the identity papers.
Merkel told the proposal, will be examined and deliberated with her coalition partners and would require parliamentary approval, it would aid Germany to deport “serial offenders” condemned of lesser crimes as well.
Merkel announced to CDU members in Mainz “This is in the interests of the citizens of Germany, but also in the interests of the great majority of the refugees who are here.”
“If people act outside the law … naturally there must be consequences,” she added. “Serial offenders who consistently, for example, return to theft or time and again insult women must count on the force of the law.”