Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to modify her liberal stance towards refugees, after a spate of assaults on women during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Colonge city blamed on asylum seekers, a media report said.
Turning away from her mantra of “we will manage this” over the record influx of asylum seekers that reached 1.1 million last year, Merkel has now backed changes to the law to make it easier to expel those convicted of crime, thelocal.de, a German news website, reported on Monday.
“If the law does not suffice, then the law must be changed,” she said on January 9, warning that any refugee handed a jail term — even if it was a suspended sentence — should be kicked out of the country.
The hoodlums on December 31 groped women, stole their purses, cell phones and other belongings, according to authorities and witness reports. There are two allegations of rape as well.
“Cologne has changed everything, people now are doubting,” said Volker Bouffier, vice president of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
Even though no arrests have been made or formal charges laid, Cologne Police said those suspected over the rampage near the city’s railway station a week ago were mostly asylum seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa.
Some 516 cases have already been lodged, police said, adding that about 40 percent of these related to allegations of sexual assault.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas said he believed the violence in Cologne was organised.
“For such a horde of people to meet and commit such crimes, it has to have been planned somehow,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“No one can tell me that this was not coordinated or planned. The suspicion is that a specific date and an expected crowd was picked,” he said.
With thousands of asylum seekers streaming into Germany every day since last year, Merkel has already come under intense pressure, even within her own conservative alliance, to reverse her open-door policy to war refugees.
Critics have questioned Germany’s ability to integrate the massive numbers of newcomers, many of whom hail from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.