‘Cologne is every day’: Europe’s rape epidemic
GERMANY, Sweden and other European countries are facing growing public unrest amid a wave of reports of sexual assaults since the Cologne attacks.
New York-based conservative think tank Gatestone Institute has compiled ashocking list of sexual assaults and rapes by migrants in Germany in just the first two months of the year.
Drawing only from German media reports, the list documents more than 160 instances of rape and sexual assault committed by migrants in train stations,swimming pools and other public places against victims as young as seven.
German police use terms such as “southerners” (südländer), men with “dark skin” (dunkelhäutig, dunklere gesichtsfarbe, dunklem hauttyp) or “southern skin colour” (südländische hautfarbe) to describe the alleged perpetrators.
Authorities across the country have been accused of downplaying the true extent of the problem by suppressing information about migrant-related crimes, ostensibly due to a “lack of public interest”.
Police are also wary of fuelling civil unrest amid a rising number of attacks on migrants and shelters by right-wing vigilante groups. In response, Germans are increasingly turning to social media to spread information.
A German Twitter account, @XYEinzelfall (“individual cases”), has created aGoogle map to track police reports of crimes allegedly committed by migrants across the region. “Cologne was just the tip of the iceberg,” the page says. “Cologne is every day.”
Most recently, three girls aged 15, 16 and 17 were assaulted over two hours by a mob of up to 30 migrants at a shopping centre in the northern city of Kiel.
Since the attack, which began when two Afghan men began stalking the teenagers and sharing photos on social media, other women have come forward to report similar experiences.
“Groups of young men gather at the Sophienhof [shopping centre] every evening,” a restaurant owner told the Kieler Nachrichten newspaper.
“What they do here is unacceptable. The moment they see a young woman wearing a skirt or any type of loose clothing, they believe they have a free pass. It is about time migrants are made to understand: things in Germany function differently than in their home countries.”
However, refugee advocates have warned against tarring all migrants with the same brush, noting that the alleged crimes are rare incidents in the context of the enormous number of migrants who have come to Europe.
More than 1.1 million migrants flooded into Germany in 2015 and the country is expecting 3.6 million to arrive by 2020, according to internal government estimates.
UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Šimonović told Timethat “against this background, we are currently speaking about incidents that must be carefully studied to establish any patterns and links”.
Growing discontent with the problems caused by mass migration have fuelled the meteoric rise of the right-wing anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is now enjoying its strongest poll results ever.
The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) announced that migrants committed crimes at the same rate as native Germans.
“It’s becoming clear that at bottom there is a higher absolute number of criminal cases only because of the increase in number of people living here with the arrival of the refugees,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said at the time.
Mr de Maizière said he had ordered the report in order to provide proof to “dispel rumours about an increase in criminal acts in Germany”, DW reported.
“The majority [of migrants] do not come here with the intention of committing crimes,” he said. “They come to Germany to find protection and peace.”
The same report, which was based on crime statistics from January to the end of September 2015, noted a “marked spike” in crime at migrant centres, which it attributed to overcrowding.
According to BKA, the majority (67 per cent) of crimes committed by migrants consisted of theft, robbery and fraud, while sex crimes made up less than one per cent.
The release of BKA’s report followed allegations by a number of women’s rights groups in Germany that a “culture of rape and violence” was developing in migrant centres, with many assaults going unreported to the police.
After the Cologne attacks, which German authorities and media initially attempted to cover up, Justice Minister Heiko Maas described the incident as a “completely new dimension of organised criminality”.
A total of 1075 criminal complaints have now been filed over the Cologne attacks, including 467 alleging crimes of a sexual nature ranging from insults to rape.
Last month, prosecutors said most of the suspects were refugees. Cologne prosecutor Ulrich Bremer said 73 suspects had been identified, of whom 12 were linked to sexual assaults.
He said earlier reports describing only three of the suspects as refugees were “total nonsense”. Mr Bremer told The Associated Press that “the overwhelming majority of persons fall into the general category of refugees”.
Some entered Germany saying they wanted to apply for asylum, while others had formally filed an application. Among the 15 suspects in custody was a Moroccan asylum seeker who entered Germany in November.
One female police officer in the northern city of Oldenburg told local newspaperNordwest-Zeitung she feared a breakdown of public order in summer, when women begin to wear more revealing clothing.
‘DO NOT GO OUTDOORS ALONE’
On Monday, police in the Swedish city of Östersund advised women not to go outdoors alone following a string of public assaults and sex attacks in the past three weeks.
Sweden, which has a population of just under 10 million, took in around 163,000 migrants in 2015, making it by far the most generous on a per capita basis.
National broadcaster SVT reports what police area manager Stephen Jerand described as a “worrying trend” of unprovoked violence on women in public places.
Speaking at a press conference, police said they had never experienced crime of this nature in the small city of Östersund, which has a population of just 44,000.
“This is serious,” Mr Jerand said. “We care about the protection of women and that is why we go out and talk about this.”
Police said there had been six reports of attacks since February 20, including a 10-year-old girl who was molested at a bus station in the centre of the city.
On February 26, a woman was beaten by three men, one of whom was arrested. On Saturday night there was one incident of attempted rape and another of assault.
In that incident, police said a lone assailant walked up to the woman and “hit her in the face with a closed fist”. The attacker, described only as “foreign”, then flung the woman down and pressed her head to the ground, before disappearing from the scene, according to the police report.
In the attempted rape incident, three young men who “spoke Swedish with an accent” attempted to drag a woman to the ground and tear off her pants, but she resisted and managed to break loose, the police report said.
WOMEN ARE SCARED TO EXERCISE AT NIGHT
It comes after a poll conducted by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet found nearly half of all women in the country are now scared to exercise alone at night.
According to the survey, 46 per cent of women aged over 16 felt either “very” or “somewhat” unsafe when they are alone in the dark, compared with 20 per cent of men.
Almost one third said if they were caught by sunset, that they would rather stay at a friend’s house than try to get home alone.
Speaking to the newspaper, 34-year-old Ellinor Andersson said she carried a bunch of keys in her hand at night, ready to strike out at any attacker.
“I would never go running by myself on a Friday or a Saturday night,” she told the paper. Another said she would never go out alone after 7pm.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported of an all-female, bikini-clad group of ‘vigilantes’ called the ‘Groping Guards’, who patrol swimming pools in Sweden to prevent migrants molesting bathers.
“Swimming pools have become prime hunting grounds for gangs of men looking to prey on vulnerable women,” 24-year-old Siri Bernhardsson told the Daily Mail.
“Loads of women here say they have been touched. We are tired of men thinking they can come to Sweden and molest women. We want to teach these boys how to behave and be left in peace to swim without being felt up.
“It happens in train stations and in swimming pools. This should not be the case in 2016 in Sweden.”
In January, it emerged that Swedish authorities had covered up sexual assaults on teenage girls by mostly migrant youths at a music festival in Stockholm for fear of “[playing] into the hands” of the anti-immigration right-wing party the Sweden Democrats.
In an editorial for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper at the time, Ivar Arpi wrote: “We Swedes pride ourselves on our unrivalled record on respecting women’s rights. But when women’s rights conflict with the goal of accommodating other cultures, it’s almost always women who are pushed to the side.”