By Sarah Kuehn
International News Writer
A 26 year old Algerian man has become the first to be arrested in connection to a string of sexually motivated assaults on New Year’s Eve, according to the Guardian. These assaults have sparked a debate about Germany’s ability to integrate the newest refugees.
Prosecutors said in a statement that the unidentified individual was arrested at a refugee home in the town of Kerpen, near Cologne. The refugee is accused of groping a woman and then stealing her phone, according to the Guardian. Two other asylum seekers from Algeria, ages 22 and 24, have also been arrested in Kerpen and Aachen for robbery.
A recent police report stated that up to 1000 drunken men of “Arab or North African origin” were responsible for robbing and attacking women outside the railway station and the city’s cathedral as reported by the Independent.
So far, 21 people have been accused of committing crimes on New Year’s Eve, though only 8 have been arrested. In the three weeks since New Year’s, 838 criminal complaints have been filed, with 497 women claiming that they were the victims of sexual assault, according to the Guardian.
The nature and scale of these crimes has prompted increased debate over Germany’s approach to migration.
In Cologne, authorities are being pressured to adopt a tougher approach towards migration, after these assaults were reported. Germany saw a rise in the number of asylum seekers from Algeria and Morocco in December, with total recorded numbers reaching approximately 2300. However, most asylum claims from the two countries face rejection, which has long been the cause of political divisions in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel’s party.
One German town has already banned male asylum seekers from a public swimming pool over complaints of harassment.
Town officials stated that the ban was not a result of pressure, but followed “intensive discussions with refugees on how they should treat women with respect,” as quoted by the BBC. Opinion polls show that support for taking in the current levels of migrants has declined since the assaults.
Because of this, Angela Merkel has vowed to review asylum rules and “make it easier to deport foreign criminals,” according to Independent.
A wave of anti-refugee protests and revenge attacks have coursed through German, with reports claiming that a man wearing a swastika helmet and a moustache reminiscent of Hitler allegedly assaulted two Afghan refugees in Saxony, according to Independent.
Europe’s most populated country and largest economy has seen the continent’s largest refugee influx since World War II. Close to 1.1 million asylum seekers entered the country in 2015, most of them fleeing poverty and war in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
On Monday, Angela Merkel’s party agreed that Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia should be designated as safe countries, making it virtually impossible for refugees from these areas to be granted asylum.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 26th print edition.
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