A leaked police report on a string of sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve has revealed that officers struggled to gain control of the situation, as Angela Merkel said a continual review of policy on deportations was needed “to send a clear signal to people who do not want to stick to our legal framework”.
The police report, leaked to the German tabloid Bild, described how officers were initially overwhelmed by the events outside the city’s train station, after which more than 100 women filed criminal complaints of sexual assault and robbery, including two accounts of rape.
It said women were forced to “run a gauntlet … beyond description” to reach or leave the station.
“The officers on the ground couldn’t gain control of all of the events, attacks and crimes – there were simply too many at the same time for that to be possible,” a high-ranking officer wrote, describing the scene to which police arrived. “On the square outside were several thousand mostly male people of a migrant background who were firing all kinds of fireworks and throwing bottles into the crowd at random.
“Even the appearance of police officers on the scene … didn’t hold the masses back from their actions.” The report added that police who tried to clear the square faced a barrage of fireworks and bottles.
— RT (@RT_com) January 8, 2016
The incidents in and around the square in front of the main train station next to the city’s gothic cathedral have led to accusations of a police and media cover-up to avoid anti-foreigner sentiment following Merkel’s open-door policy towards refugees and migrants, which has led to more than a million people arriving in the past 12 months.
Evidence has emerged that similar attacks had taken place in a total of eight German cities. After Cologne, Hamburg appears to have been the worst affected. Out of 167 complaints of attacks filed with police – around two thirds of them described as sexual assault including two cases of rape – 100 relate to Cologne, and 53 to Hamburg.
— David Vance (@DVATW) January 8, 2016
On Thursday the German chancellor called the incidents unacceptable, saying: “The feeling women had in this case of being at people’s mercy, without any protection, is intolerable for me personally as well. And so it is important for everything that happened there to be put on the table.”
Speaking at a press conference with the Romanian prime minister, Dacian Ciolo?, Merkel said she would change the law on deportations and increase police numbers. “We must also keep talking about the basis of our cultural coexistence in Germany and what people rightly expect is that actions follow words,” she added.
Victims described their attackers as being Arab or north African in appearance. Officials have said there is no concrete proof that the perpetrators were asylum seekers. Sixteen people are being investigated and no one has yet been charged, Agence France-Press reported.
— Suzanne Evans (@SuzanneEvans1) January 8, 2016
A Cologne lawyer joined a growing number of voices who insisted that the description repeatedly given by the police that the perpetrators were of “North African and Arabic appearance” was incomplete.
“Clients I’ve spoken to who were there at the station to peacefully see in the new year say that there were also Albanian, Kurds, Montenegrins, Syrians and Iraqis involved in the tumult,” said Mehdi Labidi, a Tunisian-German.
Earlier, Germany’s justice minister said asylum seekers could be deported if they were found to have participated in the attacks.
Heiko Maas said that if asylum seekers were among the perpetrators, that was not a reason to place all refugees under general suspicion. But he added that “deportations would certainly be conceivable” for those convicted.
Maas said the law allowed for people to be deported during asylum proceedings if they were sentenced to a year or more in prison. “The courts will have to decide on the level of sentences, but that penalty is in principle absolutely possible for sexual offences,” he told the Funke newspaper group.
On Wednesday the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said: “Anyone who commits serious crimes, whatever status he is in, must reckon with being deported from Germany.”
Ralf Stegner, the deputy chief of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition, told Die Welt newspaper that constantly “reacting to current public moods is not a responsible manner of governance”.
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