- Cologne incident influencing German leader's 2016 agenda
- City police chief removed as asylum crisis is compounded
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will push to ease barriers for expelling refugees who commit crimes, responding to what she called “outrageous” acts of sexual assault against women on New Year’s Eve.
A week after scores of women celebrating in Cologne reported being sexually assaulted as they passed through a group of 1,000 men in front of the city’s main train station, Merkel said her Christian Democratic Union would consider whether such violations would result in “forfeiting” migrants’ “right to hospitality.”
“We’re doing this for us, for our convictions, for cohesion in our country,” Merkel told a CDU gathering in the western German city of Mainz. “But just as much for the many, many refugees who were not there for these incidents in Cologne and in other places.”
The CDU proposal underscores the political risks Merkel faces as she seeks to uphold her open-door policy toward refugees while avoiding a breakdown of passport-free travel in Europe. Last week’s assaults in Cologne are inflaming Germany’s debate about how to integrate more than 1 million asylum seekers who arrived in Europe’s biggest economylast year.
Germany should “lower the hurdles for the expulsion and deportation of foreigners who commit crimes,” according to the draft resolution obtained by Bloomberg, which the CDU’s national executive board plans to discuss at a two-day meeting starting later Friday in Mainz.
“The CDU is the party of homeland security,” according to the draft. At the same time, it says, “no country in the European Union benefits as strongly” from open borders within the EU as Germany.
More than 120 women filed sexual-assault complaints with police, including two cases of rape, after passing through the melee of men at the foot of Cologne’s iconic Gothic cathedral. Police in Hamburg received sexual harassment complaints from 70 women. Federal police have identified 18 asylum seekers in the Cologne crowd, German Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said in Berlin on Friday.
With Cologne police describing the crowd as mostly men of “North African or Arabic” origin, the incident has compounded the refugee crisis that Merkel has called the most complex challenge of her 10-year chancellorship.
Cologne’s police chief, Wolfgang Albers, was removed from duty Friday for failing to prevent the New Year’s Eve assaults, according to a statement on the city police department’s website.