German Chancellor admitted Europe is ‘vulnerable’ and said countries do not have control of the situation
Angela Merkel also said the euro was ‘directly linked’ to freedom of movement in Europe and if countries do not allow their borders to be crossed without much difficulty, the European single market would ‘suffer acutely’
Thousands of people took to the streets of the German city of Leipzig to protest against the influx of refugees
Protesters chanted ‘Resistance!’ and ‘Deport them!’ and some had signs which read ‘Refugees not welcome!’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted Europe is ‘vulnerable’ because it does not have the ‘order or control’ it would like regarding the refugee crisis.
Merkel said yesterday at an event in Mainz, near Frankfurt, that Europe was ‘vulnerable’ in the refugee crisis because it was not yet in control of the situation to the extent that it would like to be.
She said: ‘Now all of a sudden we are facing the challenge that refugees are coming to Europe and we are vulnerable, as we see, because we do not yet have the order, the control, that we would like to have.’
She also said the euro was ‘directly linked’ to freedom of movement in Europe, adding: ‘Nobody should act as though you can have a common currency without being able to cross borders reasonably easily.’
Merkel said that if countries did not allow their borders to be crossed without much difficulty, the European single market would ‘suffer acutely’ – meaning that Germany, at the centre of the European Union and its largest economy, should fight to defend freedom of movement.
The EU has struggled to cope with a tide of refugees from war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, most of whom have landed in Greece or Italy before heading for wealthier northern EU states.
Germany has taken in the bulk of them, more than a million last year alone.
Some EU countries have re-established border controls within the passport-free Schengen zone, where they had been abolished, while efforts to share out the asylum-seekers across EU member states have floundered.
Merkel said that, to preserve the Schengen zone within the EU, it was necessary to make the bloc’s external borders more secure.
Yesterday thousands of protesters waved anti-migrant signs and flags in the eastern German city of Leipzig as they demonstrated against a refugee influx they blame for a number of incidents of sexual violence at New Year’s Eve events in Cologne.
The rally was organised by LEGIDA, the local chapter of xenophobic group PEGIDA, the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident.
Many chanted ‘We are the people’, ‘Resistance!’ and ‘Deport them!’.
Others vented their anger and frustration at Chancellor Merkel, who they accused of destroying Germany by letting in 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015.
‘Refugees not welcome!’ read one sign, showing a silhouette of three men armed with knives pursuing a woman, while another declared ‘Islam = terror’.
A heavy police presence, with water canon at the ready, kept watch over the crowd and separated them from a group of counter-demonstrators.
Waving a sign which said ‘State of injustice’, 44-year-old demonstrator Lukas Richter said: ‘Merkel is breaching the constitution and must go,’ and that ‘the government must close the borders and return all illegal migrants’.
He claimed that the New Year’s Eve mob attacks in the western city of Cologne – where hundreds of women reported being groped and robbed by men described as being of Arabic or North African appearance – highlighted ‘the violence of foreigners in Germany that has existed for years’.
The rally came as it emerged vigilante mobs have been attacking people from Pakistan and Syria in Cologne, leaving at least two in hospital, following calls on social media for ‘revenge’ in the wake of the New Years Eve assaults.
The attacks were carried out by groups of young men, allegedly targeting foreigners, after reports Cologne police are focusing their investigation on asylum seekers and migrants.
German police say the number of criminal complaints filed after the events on New Year’s Eve in Cologne has risen to 516 – 40 per cent relating to allegations of sexual assault.
Two Pakistani nationals were admitted to hospital after six men were attacked by a mob of 20 people near the city’s main train station – the scene of the New Years Eve attacks – on Sunday.
It is unclear what their condition is although the police are looking to press charges of ‘serious bodily harm’ against their attackers who kicked, beat and abused them verbally.
According to the Cologne Express newspaper, a group of ‘hooligans, rockers and bouncers’ joined up on Facebook in revenge.
The Express said the Facebook vigilante groups had promised an ‘orderly clean up’ of the old town centre in their ‘manhunt.’
Police confirmed one Syrian man was also hurt in an attack on Sunday, which took place just 20 minutes after the first, but is believed to have been carried out by a separate group of five men.
The 39-year-old man was injured but did not require medical treatment.
Police say they are still investigating whether the attacks were racially motivated and whether there was any link to the New Year assaults.
Today, the minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, the German state where Cologne is located, admitted that people of foreign descent were responsible for virtually all of the violence on New Year’s Eve in the city.
‘Based on testimony from witnesses, the report from the Cologne police and descriptions by the federal police, it looks as if people with a migration background were almost exclusively responsible for the criminal acts,’ Ralf Jaeger, interior minister from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia told a special commission on the Cologne violence.
‘All signs point to these being north Africans and people from the Arab world,’ he added. ‘Based on what we know now from the investigation, asylum seekers who arrived in the past year are among the suspects.’
Cologne has a significant first and second generation immigrant population and racial tension has heightened in the wake of New Years Eve.
The city, which has a population of just over one million, has more than 120,000 practicing Muslim residents and the largest Jewish communities in Germany. Just over 5.5 per cent are born in Turkey.
Over the past week, the police presence in the city has been heightened, but many called the efforts ‘too little too late’, questioning why officers had not been able to stop the attacks.
On Monday, a regional parliamentary commission in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, whose largest city is Cologne, will question police and others about the events on New Year’s Eve.
The attacks on women in Cologne have also sparked a debate about tougher rules for migrants who break the law, faster deportation procedures and increased security measures such as more video surveillance in public areas and more police.