Focus turns to migrants after New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne

Imam Sami Abu-Yusuf

After far-right protests erupted in Cologne during the weekend, a sister group of the xenophobic PEGIDA movement was due to hold another rally later Monday in the eastern city of Leipzig.

A heavy police presence separated them from thousands of counter-demonstrators.

While the rally stayed peaceful, police said some 250 far-right hooligans had thrown rocks and smashed shop windows in a traditionally left-wing student district of the city, before police dispersed them.

The attacks may be retaliatory crimes after hundreds of assaults against women on New Year's Eve in several German cities were linked to foreigners.

Tensions continue to escalate in Germany as reports of mob sex assaults on New Year's Eve give way to attacks on foreigners and demands for refugees to leave.

When you take in a million refugees, more than half from the Middle East, you may expect them to include a few religious fanatics who may be or become terrorists.

Previously, migrants to Germany could be deported only if they were found guilty of crimes punishable by a sentence of one year or more.

After a series of vigilante attacks against foreign nationals in Cologne, police in Leipzig to the east battled and detained 211 people on Monday evening after a riot on the fringes of a march by Legida, Leipzig allies of Dresden's far-right Pegida.

Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and her Social Democratic coalition ally agreed on Tuesday on legislative proposals to ease the expulsion of refugees who commit crimes, including sexual assault and attacks on police officers, as fallout from the attacks heightens the threat to the chancellor's open-door refugee policy. Although no formal charges have been laid, Jaeger said the attackers emerged from a group of more than 1,000 "Arab and North African" men who gathered between the main railway station and the city's iconic Gothic cathedral during the year-end festivities. Twenty-two of 32 suspects identified by authorities are asylum seekers, the Interior Ministry said.

EVENTS in Cologne, Frankfurt and Hamburg at the New Year, in which more than 100 women were sexually assaulted and more robbed, raise uncomfortable questions for all European nations.

She said Germans know that since the awful events of that night in Cologne, for integration to work, society needs to be open; but, she said, the refugees also need to be willing to follow the country's rules and values. On Sunday, two Pakistanis and a Syrian man were injured in attacks by gangs of people, apparently motivated by anti-foreigner sentiment.

Dr Merkel has repeatedly resisted pressure to introduce a cap on the number of migrants entering Germany, arguing this would mean shutting the borders, which would doom Europe's Schengen free-travel zone.

Also, Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker has been slammed for advising women to keep "more than an arm's length" away from unknown men in response to the assaults.

Her comments came after authorities in Cologne confirmed for the first time that the attacks were "almost exclusively" carried out by men "of an immigrant background".

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