Cologne Sex Attacks: Only Three Out Of 58 Men Arrested Are Refugees, Prosecutor Reveals

15/02/2016 15:28 | Updated 16 February 2016
Juergen Schwarz/AP

After refugees were blamed for thieving from, sexually assaulting and raping women in Cologne on New Year's Eve, new evidence has emerged to suggest they were in the drastic minority of perpetrators.

Just three of the 58 suspects arrested in connection with January's mass sex attack were refugees, local public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer has confirmed.

The German legal official said two Syrians and one Iraqi had been detained by police as part of their inquiries, contrary to the hysteria caused by headlines which accused hordes of refugees of masterminding the assault.

Unnamed police sources were previously used to attribute claims Syrian refugees were those behind the attacks, in a move branded "demagoguery" by Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth.

Those of migrant descent did make up large numbers of the arrested; a full list of nationalities of those accused stands at 25 Algerians, 21 Moroccans, three Tunisians, three Germans, two Syrians and an Iraqi.

But Kris Pollet, acting secretary general of the ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles), said the news that significantly fewer refugees had been involved in the attack than previously believed should "counter the anti-refugee agenda some groups have been pushing since Cologne".

"It shows how dangerous it is to make sweeping generalisations about such events without establishing the facts first," he told The Huffington Post UK.

"This is about violence against women and should be addressed as such, regardless of the status and background of those suspected of having committed such acts.

"It is important for the authorities to continue their investigations and to ensure that the perpetrators, regardless of their nationality or status, are effectively brought to justice.

"Meanwhile we hope that this may also help to counter the anti-refugee agenda some groups have been pushing since Cologne and that has too often clouded the political debate in Europe on refugee protection."

Pundit James O'Brien also piled in to ponder what the British media would do with new information that contradicted previous reports.

Bremer later hit out at how his own remarks had been reported, insisting most of the suspects identified in connection were refugees.

He claimed to AP: "They have various legal statuses, including illegal entry, asylum-seekers and asylum applicants."

"That covers the overwhelming majority of suspects."

A refugee is commonly defined as someone who has been granted asylum status or fled a conflict zone.

Allegations that those recently fleeing persecution in their own countries, the lion share of which are Syrian, were behind sex attacks on women in Germany have fuelled a significant hardening of attitudes to immigration.

Hundreds turned out to protest Angela Merkel's open door policy for asylum seekers in the aftermath of January's atrocity. Some carried banners reading "Rape refugees not welcome"; others held signs depicting a crossed out mosque.

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Germany has also seen a spike in racially motivated arson attacks on refugees' homes and shelters since the incident, with vigilante gangs vowing to 'clean up Cologne' in a mass "manhunt".

In Leipzig, 250 members of local anti-migrant group Pegida attacked doner kebab fast food stalls, set cars ablaze and smashed windows.

legida

A policeman next to burning bins during the demonstration

Demonstrators threw fireworks at police, and attempted to build a barricade with signs and torn up paving stones. A bus carrying leftist demonstrators was also attacked.

German women responded to the action by handing out flowers to refugees in a bid to protest against violence unfairly levelled against them.

In turn, refugees handed out flowers to women in German cities to show their respect.

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