Merkel under fire on migrants after New Year's Eve assaults

German Chancellor Angela Merkel came under mounting pressure today over her welcoming stance toward migrants, which opponents have linked to a shocking rash of apparently coordinated sex attacks in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

AFP| Updated: Jan 06, 2016, 21:58 PM IST
Merkel under fire on migrants after New Year's Eve assaults
Angela Merkel

Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel came under mounting pressure today over her welcoming stance toward 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 two rapes, 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, inflaming a heated public debate about Germany's ability to cope with the nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers the country took in last year.

Authorities have said there is no concrete indication that the perpetrators were asylum seekers who arrived in last year's record influx.

No arrests have been made. However critics of Merkel's liberal refugee policy charged that the Cologne assaults proved she was playing with fire without a clear strategy to integrate the mainly Muslim newcomers who will settle in Germany.

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which hopes to gain seats in three regional elections in March, charged the attacks were "a result of unchecked immigration".

Late yesterday 200-300 people, according to police estimates, gathered in front of Cologne cathedral calling for more respect for women. One female demonstrator held a sign reading: "Mrs. Merkel, what are you doing? This is scary".