Europe’s immigration crisis has taken a new turn after reports that New Year’s attacks on women in Cologne and other cities were organized by immigrant groups. Swedish authorities now have to answer allegations that police covered up similar attacks on women in Sweden. While a wave of migrants from Northern Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia continues to arrive at Europe’s door, governments struggle to stem anti-immigrant sentiment in the host countries.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Germany’s eastern city of Leipzig to call for tolerance in the wake of anti-immigrant protests organized by LEGIDA, a local offshoot of the German right-wing nationalist group PEGIDA. Anti-immigrant groups have long been protesting what they call the Islamization of the West, and reports of the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne and other cities have boosted their cause.
“These Muslim refugees have begun a generalized terrorist attack – an attack against German women; against white, blonde women,” said Tatjana Festerling, a leader of PEGIDA.
Xenophobic mobs were blamed for a series of attacks against Pakistani, Syrian and African men in Cologne Sunday night.
But many women came out to protest the violence.
“What PEGIDA does today makes me angry. We all know that PEGIDA, and hooligans who gathered today, couldn’t care less about women’s rights. They always come here to beat foreigners. For them, it’s about doing propaganda, not fighting sexism,” said Emily Michels, a member of Cologne Against Far-right.
Meanwhile, Swedish media reports accused the police of trying to cover up the fact that immigrants were behind most holiday attacks there. National police chief Dan Eliasson said Monday the allegations will be investigated.
“We have to get to the bottom of this. If there is any veracity to this information, it has to be remedied and we have to see if someone has done wrong,” said Eliasson.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the uncontrolled immigration flow has to be stemmed.
“We have to intensify the fight against the causes that make people flee. And then we will be able, and that is what we want for this year, to noticeably reduce the number of refugees. That is clear. Because we also have the task to integrate them. That is what everyone talks about here — what would be the best integration method? And we know, since the terrible events that night in Cologne, that for integration we need the openness of the society, but the refugees also need to be willing to follow our rules and values as well,” said Merkel.
For some people who grew up in a culture of chaos and violence, it may be the hardest part of the integration.