German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has made a courageous choice in taking in a large number of refugees is facing challenges amid emerging cases of sexual assaults by alleged attackers of foreign origins. German police have so far identified a total of 16 suspects who could relate to sex attacks committed against women in the western German city of Cologne, German media Focus Online reported on Thursday. On New Year’s Eve, a group of around 1,000 men have surrounded, harassed and robbed especially women in Cologne. Among about a quarter of the reported cases, the victims indicated that they have been sexually harassed, while two cases of rape had been reported, according to the report.
The number of criminal complaints filed rose to 121, a police spokesman was quoted as saying on the same day. He said most suspects’ names still remain unknown, but they are clearly recognizable on pictures or video recordings. According to eyewitnesses and the victims, the perpetrators were from the Arabic or North African region regarding their appearance. However, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere stressed on Tuesday that there should be no general suspicion towards refugees.
Nevertheless, opposers of Merkel’s refugee decisions have seized the chance to launch attacks on the chancellor’s open-door policy. Right-wing parties in the country have renewed calls for caps on the number of refugees and asked Merkel to implement tighter border controls. The event has had major bearing on the Germans’ mentality. According to a poll by broadcaster ARD, 30 percent of respondents said they would avoid big crowds because of the events in Cologne. The ARD poll also showed 57 percent of those asked wanted to reinstate border controls, up 12 points from September.
Merkel won international fame last year when she announced Germany could cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in 2015 amid mounting pressures. The chancellor said the events were “completely unacceptable” and “intolerable.” She said she would consider a number of measures, including moves to boost police forces and efforts to sharpen the country’s deportation system. However, the chancellor called for continued discussions on “cultural coexistence.”
“We have a duty to give the right answers,” she said.
Following revelations of the Cologne assaults over New Year’s Eve, similar events were also reported in other parts of Europe including Austria and Switzerland. Analysts said those events may fuel outcries against refugees in Europe,making it even harder for bolder leaders to continue embracing for incoming refugees.
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