Sky News, January 8, 2016
Cologne’s police chief has been sent into early retirement following criticism over his handling of allegations of sex assaults and violence by migrants on New Year’s Eve.
Wolfgang Albers admitted mistakes were made in a report compiled after more than 100 New Year revellers were sexually assaulted, robbed or threatened during the city’s celebrations, mostly by migrants and asylum seekers.
Cologne police said the decision to retire Mt Albers would be formally discussed by North Rhine-Westphalia’s governing Cabinet on Tuesday, but he would not be returning to his job.
The sacking came as a women’s rights campaigner and performance artist named Milo Moire staged a naked protest over the assaults.
Ms Moire stood in front of Cologne Cathedral brandishing a placard which read: “Respect us. We are not fair game even when we are naked.”
Earlier Germany’s interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said police had identified 31 people suspected of playing a role in the violence, 18 of them asylum seekers.
Mr Plate said the vast majority of the 32 criminal acts documented by federal police on the night were related to theft and bodily injury, and three to sexual assaults.
He said of the 31 people questioned, nine had been Algerian, eight Moroccan, five Iranian, and four Syrian.
Two German citizens, an Iraqi, a Serb and a US citizen were also among those seen to have committed crimes during the night.
An internal police report following the violence has described how women were forced to run through mobs of drunken men.
The document, made public by German newspapers, came amid allegations that officers struggled to cope with the large crowds of disorderly revellers–as “several thousand males with a migrant background” hurled fireworks and bottles.
It recounted how policemen were met by “anxious citizens with crying and shocked children” as numbers swelled at Cologne’s main train station in the minutes before midnight.
Jens Floeren, a federal police spokesman, has confirmed the authenticity of the report–but stressed it was the “subjective assessment” of one officer who was at the scene.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a “fundamental” debate on how to integrate the 1.1 million refugees who were registered in the country last year.
She described the assaults as “repugnant criminal acts that Germany will not accept”.
She added: “The feeling women had in this case of being at people’s mercy, without any protection, is intolerable for me personally as well.
“We must examine again and again whether we have already done what is necessary in terms of deportations from Germany in order to send clear signals to those who are not prepared to abide by our legal order.”
Members of Cologne’s Muslim community, including some who have lived in the city for decades, have joined other Germans in condemning the attacks.
One woman said: “Everywhere it says this has something to do with Muslims. What I read and learned in the Koran is completely different.
“I’ve been here for 30 years myself and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Elsewhere Swiss police have said several women were also robbed and sexually assaulted in Zurich on New Year’s Eve in attacks “a little bit similar” to those reported in Cologne.
Officers in Finland have also confirmed there were a higher-than-average number of sexual harassment complaints in Helsinki as revellers welcomed in 2016.
Officials claimed they were tipped off about groups of asylum seekers who were planning to assault women.
Swedish police say two asylum seekers are among the suspects after at least 15 women reported being groped on New Year’s Eve in Kalmar.