German authorities are on Monday due to release the first details of their probe into a rash of assaults on New Year’s Eve blamed on migrants, as police revealed that the number of complaints filed has topped 500.
The figures are a big increase from the 379 cases police reported on Saturday.
Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, is expected to unveil more details when he is questioned by regional politicians over the crime spree against women that has piled pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her liberal stance towards refugees.
Photo: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters
Even though no formal charges have been laid, Cologne police have said those suspected over the rampage near the city’s railway station were mostly asylum seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa.
After far-right protests erupted in Cologne during the weekend, a sister group of the xenophobic Pegida movement is due to hold another rally later Monday in the eastern city of Leipzig.
In the face of outrage over the Cologne violence, Mrs Merkel has taken a tough line against convicted refugees.
Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Police said late on Sunday that more than a week on from New Year’s Eve, some 516 complaints had now been lodged, including 40 per cent that are related to sexual assault.
Witnesses described terrifying scenes of hundreds of women running a gauntlet of groping hands, lewd insults and robberies in the mob violence.
The scale of the Cologne assaults has shocked Germany and put a spotlight on the 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived in the country last year.
It has also fuelled fear, with a poll published by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper saying that 39 per cent of those surveyed felt police did not provide sufficient protection, while 57 percent did.
And just under half (49 per cent) believed the same sort of mob violence could hit their hometown, reported the newspaper which headlined its article with the question: “Is the New Year’s Eve scandal the result of wrong policies?”
Heiko Maas, justice minister, said he believed the violence in the western city of Cologne was organised.
“For such a horde of people to meet and commit such crimes, it has to have been planned somehow,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“No one can tell me that this was not coordinated or planned. The suspicion is that a specific date and an expected crowd was picked.”
Quoting confidential police reports, Bild am Sonntag said some North Africans had sent out calls using social networks for people to gather in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.