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Migrant crisis: foreigners attacked in retaliation for Cologne New Year's Eve assaults

Cologne: Germany's migrant crisis has reached new levels of violence and anger, as hooligans attacked foreigners in Cologne, and police revealed they were investigating more than 500 alleged sexual assaults and robberies by drunk migrants in the city on New Year's Eve.

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At least 11 foreigners were injured on Sunday evening, in attacks police said were co-ordinated on social media by extremists from the "hooligan, rocker or bouncer scene". The victims included six Pakistanis, two Syrians, and three people from Guinea.

Police said they were deliberately targeted in revenge for the December 31 assaults on women by groups of intoxicated migrants at the city's main train station.

A new police report, released in full on Monday, said young migrant men were behind more than 500 crimes at the train station that evening. As of Sunday, police had received complaints of 237 alleged sexual offences, 107 of which also involved theft. The sexual assaults included two rapes. There were also 279 cases of robbery and (non-sexual) assault.

More than 600 criminal complaints were received across Germany, including 133 in Hamburg.


Police have identified 19 suspects in the Cologne assaults. None of the suspects was German: 10 were officially asylum seekers and nine were suspected of being in Germany illegally. Fourteen of the suspects were from Morocco and Algeria.

None of them had any identifiable residence in Cologne, and their whereabouts were unknown.

The report found more than 1000 people had gathered late on New Year's Eve in the station square and adjacent steps leading up to the city's famous cathedral. They were "predominantly males between 15 and 35 years of age ... from the north African/Arab region".

Most of them were drunk, and police said they were "totally uninhibited and aggressive". They shot fireworks into the crowd and at police, and groups within the crowd were sexually harassing women and stealing from them as they came out of the station.

Despite claims – by people including German Justice Minister Heiko Maas – that the attacks had been co-ordinated, the police report said there was no evidence of organisation or control of the group at the train station.

The "type and number of physical attacks" indicated the offenders were "primarily sexually motivated and not always immediately aimed at theft".

The report was presented on Monday by the North Rhine-Westphalia region's Interior Minister, Ralf Jaeger, to a state parliament committee.

Mr Jaeger said it was "wrong and dangerous" to stigmatise groups of foreigners as sexual predators, the local Express newspaper reported.

However, he said such crimes were unacceptable and those responsible should be punished.

Mr Jaeger said police had failed twice: by not sending reinforcements to the scene when it started to get out of control, and by trying to conceal the details of the attacks afterwards.

He said it would be unrealistic to believe all refugees and asylum seekers were "innocent lambs" – migrants would include doctors, engineers, scientists and also criminals.

According to police statistics reported in German media, only 0.5 per cent of convicted pickpockets in Cologne were Syrians – but more than 40 per cent were north Africans.

On Saturday, a 19 year-old Moroccan man was arrested, allegedly in possession of a mobile phone stolen on New Year's Eve.

The reports of sexual assaults by foreigners on New Year's Eve were not confined to Cologne. Hamburg police said 133 similar charges had been lodged, and there were also reports of attacks in Frankfurt.

On Sunday, there was also a new report of a group of men sexually harassing a woman. The 24 year-old was trying to leave a bus in Hamburg and was groped several times, Die Welt reported.

The men were described as 30 to 40 "Sudlanders" – a German word usually applied to Spanish, Italian or Greeks.

"It is the first incident of its kind in Hamburg," a bus company spokesman said.

The attacks have strengthened and emboldened opposition to Germany's welcoming policy towards migrants.

Chancellor Angela Merkel promised at the weekend to give police more power to crack down on migrants who commit crimes, including deporting them.

Austrian newspaper Die Presse reported on Monday that police on Germany's southern border with Austria were starting to turn back more refugees – several hundred a day – adopting a stricter interpretation of the rules under which asylum seekers are allowed to stay.

Police are now rejecting refugees who do not specifically say on arrival that they wish to apply for asylum in Germany, the paper reported – for example, people who wish to move through Germany and apply for asylum in Sweden.

When Fairfax Media visited the most commonly used border crossing late in 2015, German police interviewed all refugees who made the crossing and asked for identification, but none were turned back. 

However, an Upper Austrian police spokeswoman told Die Presse the number being pushed back each day was rising. About 260 were turned around on Sunday. 

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