German Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday backed a toughening of expulsion rules for convicted refugees, as protesters took to the streets against a shocking rash of sexual assaults blamed on migrants during New Year’s festivities.
Both women’s groups and supporters of the xenophobic PEGIDA movement mobilised in separate rallies in Cologne, as Merkel declared that refugees found to have committed a crime — even those who have not been given jail terms — should be required to leave Germany.
“If the law does not suffice, then the law must be changed” she said, vowing action to protect not just German citizens, but innocent refugees too.
Outrage is growing in Germany over the revelations that hundreds of women ran a gauntlet of groping hands, lewd insults and robberies in mob violence last week in the western city.
Most of the assailants were of Arabic or North African background, according to eye-witnesses, police and media reports.
‘Cologne changes everything’:
The majority of suspects identified by federal police are also migrants, adding fuel to criticism of Merkel’s liberal migrant policy — which brought 1.1 million new asylum seekers to Germany last year.
Waving German flags and signs meaning “Rapefugees not welcome”, “Germany survived war, plague and cholera, but Merkel?”, hundreds of PEGIDA supporters shouted “Merkel raus” (Merkel out).
In response, counter-protesters, separated by police, chanted “Nazis raus” at the site, where earlier, some 500 protesters, mostly women, had held a noisy rally against sexist violence.