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Cologne: With a new police report blaming predominantly north African migrants for the horrific sexual assaults and robberies at Cologne's train station on New Year's Eve, one man is not surprised.
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Former police officer Nick Hein says a migrant crime gang was operating with impunity at the station, in the knowledge that they could not lose their refugee status.
Mr Hein is a minor celebrity in Germany – now a UFC fighter, he previously dabbled in acting (playing an undertaker in a TV drama), and was dubbed "Judge Dredd" by his colleagues when he worked for the federal police in Cologne.
Mr Hein wrote on Facebook on Sunday that he was a policeman for more than 11 years, and in the last three of those he had shifts at the main train station in Cologne.
"It was a special place," he said. "You saw the depths of humanity – drugs, organised theft, asylum seekers and suicide."
But pickpocketing was "by far the biggest crime phenomenon at Cologne central station", he said.
"It was almost always the same group of offenders – north African asylum seekers."
He remembered there was an older man who posed as a Spanish tourist asking passers-by for advice. It was a cover for his accomplices, who would rob the passers-by while they were distracted.
The "little man with an oversized jacket" was banned from the station but kept coming back, he said. He was there so often that police dubbed him "the Spaniard".
Mr Hein said the obvious question was "how can an asylum seeker commit crimes without fear of being deported"?
The answer, he said, was article 53 of Germany's Residence Act, which allows foreigners to be deported but only in serious cases – crimes punishable by at least three years' imprisonment.
"This is unbelievable to me," Mr Hein wrote.
He also said it was unfair to blame police for failing to bring the New Year's Eve crowd under control. The station was severely understaffed and under-resourced, he said.
But Mr Hein concluded by saying he disagreed with people who were "fundamentally opposed to asylum".
He said he had promised a good friend that his Syrian refugee cousins could come to Cologne.
"I became a cop to help people who needed help," he said. "But if we want to maintain democratic order and a civil society, then violations of these principles should be punished immediately and consistently."