Berlin — ON New Year’s Eve, hundreds of men gathered in the plaza at the main train station in Cologne, Germany, groping and robbing scores of women as they passed by. By the end of this week the police had received 170 complaints, including 120 related to sexual assault.
Despite the fact that the attacks occurred in the center of Germany’s fourth-largest city, it took days for the news to surface in the national media. Even stranger, the police seemed to know little about the attacks. No arrests were made, and authorities claimed that nearby surveillance cameras offered little help in identifying suspects. The Cologne police chief was forced from his job on Friday.
The police have since identified 31 suspects. They are a multinational lot, including Germans, a Serb and even one American. But 18 of them are asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa.
This latest news is merely fuel for what many Germans already suspected, and witness accounts had already indicated: that the crowd was composed largely of men of North African and Middle Eastern descent, and that they were among the one million refugees that Germany has accepted over the last year.
The attacks — along with similar incidents in Hamburg — come at a critical time for Germany, and they raise tough questions about where Germany is headed: not just whether it will remain open to more refugees, but whether it can peacefully integrate those already here.
Rarely in recent memory has a single event captured the German conversation quite like the Cologne attacks. Long before any facts were in, commentators were already drawing conclusions.
Alice Schwarzer, a well-known German feminist, wrote on her blog on Tuesday that the events were a “product of misguided tolerance.” Frauke Petry, head of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, said the events were a “result of uncontrolled migration.”
And Julia Klöckner, the top Christian Democratic candidate in the coming state election in Rhineland-Palatinate, called for an “open debate” on whether foreigners, including asylum seekers, could be kicked out for committing crimes — a proposal that even Chancellor Angela Merkel cautiously endorsed, though such laws already exist.
But as quick as the right was to use the attacks as a wedge against refugees, the left moved just as fast to deflect the blame. Heiko Maas, the minister of justice and a member of the Social Democrats, said on Tuesday that “organized crime” was behind the attacks, though no evidence exists for such a connection (he has since threatened to deport foreigners found guilty in the attacks).
Pour lire l'article en entier : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/09/opinion/germanys-post-cologne-hysteria.html