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Attacks in Cologne

Angela Merkel demands the full force of the law

Bundeskanzlerin Merkel hat gefordert, die Schuldigen der Übergriffe in Köln so schnell wie möglich zu ermitteln und zu bestrafen. Bundesinnenminister de Maizière betonte: "Sollten Flüchtlinge dabei gewesen sein, müssen wir das offen thematisieren." Wer hier leben wolle, müsse unsere Rechtsordnung achten.

Crowds in front of Cologne's main railway station on New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve, women were victims of sexual assualt and theft around Cologne's main railway station

Photo: picture alliance / dpa

In a telephone call with Cologne’s Lord Mayor Henriette Reker on Tuesday (5 January), Angela Merkel expressed her outrage at these "disgusting attacks" and sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve. She demanded that the full force of the law be brought to bear. Everything must be done to identify the perpetrators as rapidly and comprehensively as possible, and to punish them irrespective of their origin or background, she said.

Perpetrators must be brought to justice

Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière also declared that every single perpetrator, regardless of their origins, must be punished. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild on 6 January he said that he could not yet give any precise information regarding the perpetrators. But, he said, "If refugees were involved, we must address this openly."

Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas likewise announced on 5 January that the "cowardly and abhorrent attacks" were completely unacceptable. This is quite clearly an entirely new dimension of organised crime, he said. "All perpetrators must be identified and brought to justice," he declared. He stressed, "We cannot allow people in our cities to be exposed unprotected to mindless violence."

Assaults on women unacceptable

"The attacks and crimes perpetrated on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other cities are horrific and cannot be tolerated," declared Thomas de Maizière on Tuesday 5 January. The assaults on women in particular are abhorrent and unacceptable."

This was reinforced by the Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig. "Women are not fair game. We will not tolerate attacks of any sort on women," she posted on Facebook (on 5 January).

No parallel societies will be accepted

Speaking on Wednesday (6 January) Thomas de Maizière declared that everything must be done to prevent the emergence of parallel societies. "We want to see the integration process respected and accepted as binding by both sides, the German state and the migrants." It must be quite clear that everybody who lives in Germany and who wishes to live here must respect our laws and our social order, and must integrate. Anyone who fails to do so, will feel the full force of the law."

Anyone refusing to integrate will have to expect disadvantages, including cuts in benefits. Foreign citizens found guilty of serious criminal offences will have to leave our country, said Thomas de Maizière.

The Federal Interior Minister presented an app produced jointly by the German television channels ARD and ZDF with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Goethe Institute. The new app provides information on behavioural norms.

We cannot treat all refugees as suspects

Thomas de Maizière also said very clearly, however that it would be just as wrong to treat all refugees as suspects as it would to try to cover up criminal structures where they can be proven.

The investigations of the responsible state and federal police authorities are currently proceeding at top speed. Thomas de Maizière reported that he is in close contact with the state level justice ministers. "We are all adamant that the perpetrators of assaults of this sort must be rigorously identified."