Merkel policy under fire after NYE sex assaults
Berlin, January 6
German Chancellor Angela Merkel came under mounting pressure today for her welcoming stance towards migrants, which opponents have linked to a shocking rash of apparently coordinated sex attacks in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.
Police in the western city told AFP they have received more than 100 complaints by women reporting assaults ranging from groping to at least one reported rape, allegedly committed in a large crowd of revellers during year-end festivities outside the city’s main train station and its famed Gothic cathedral. Victims blamed men of “Arab or North African” appearance, enflaming a heated public debate about Germany’s ability to cope with the nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers the country took in 2015. Authorities have said there is no concrete indication that the perpetrators were asylum seekers who arrived in last year’s record influx.
However critics of Merkel’s liberal refugee policy charged that the Cologne assaults proved she was playing with fire without clear plans how to integrate the mainly Muslim newcomers.
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, which hopes to gain seats in three regional elections in March, seized on the attacks as “a result of unchecked immigration”.
“Here we see the appalling consequences of catastrophic asylum and migration policies on Germany’s everyday reality,” party leader Frauke Petry said.