Germany must have frank talk about integration: Merkel

7th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday Germany must have a "fundamental" debate about how to integrate newcomers, as police identified 16 people suspected of a shocking rash of sexual assaults blamed on migrants.

Victims described their attackers on New Year's Eve in Cologne as being "Arab or North African" in appearance, and some 121 complaints have been filed so far.

Police said they are investigating "16 young men... mostly of North African origin" although no one has yet been charged.

Investigators are trawling through CCTV footage and examining witness accounts to determine whether the suspects were implicated, police added.

About three-quarters of the cases involved sexual offences, while others related to theft or bodily harm.

Welcoming the fact that large numbers of victims have come out to file complaints, Merkel said there were "very serious questions that go beyond Cologne" for Germany.

The attacks have shown that there is in "some quarters, contempt for women," she said.

"We need to confront that with utmost determination," Merkel said, adding that she did not believe that the cases were isolated.

Recognising the right of German citizens to demand a response from the state, Merkel stressed that "we must also speak again about the cultural fundamentals of our co-existence".

Although authorities have said there are no indications that the perpetrators of the attacks were asylum seekers, critics of Merkel's open-door approach to those fleeing war have seized on the opportunity to draw a link.

Germany took in nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers last year, with refugees from war-torn Syria making up almost 40 percent of arrivals.

© 2016 AFP

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