Police in northern Germany have been forced to apologise after a draft email suggesting migrants should be kept away from carnival celebrations was leaked to migrant organisations, prompting accusations of racism.
Over the last few years, it has become common for the managers of residential homes for asylum seekers to take the migrants to carnivals to help familiarise them with German culture.
But an email by North Rhine-Westphalia state police, addressed to the shelters’ managers, suggested that the practice be put on hold for the safety of the migrants themselves.
In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, including that on Berlin’s Christmas market in December, the police were concerned that the public would react to the presence of groups of migrants with alarm.
“Due to events . . . of the last two years, this could unfortunately lead to undesired reactions,” the email said, according to a report in The Times.
The email also suggested the managers advise migrants to “undergo police searches without complaint”.
A police spokesman confirmed the draft was genuine, but said it had been criticised internally and a decision was taken not to send it.
Nonetheless, copies were leaked to several migrant organisations and charities who have reacted angrily, accusing the police of racism.
Petra Jennen, who works at the central migrant centre in Leverkusen, told the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger: “I won’t be telling the families we have living here that they can’t go to the carnival parade.”
She added that the request for migrants to undergo checks is “very unfair”, saying: “They would never think of making the same request to a German citizen.”
The Cologne Refugee Council, a group of migrant aid organisations, accused police of provoking hostility to migrants and called upon local people to defend migrants from the police.
“The carnival offers the best opportunities to integrate refugees,” it said. “Dear huns and hussars, dear costumed revellers and backpack wearers: Watch out! If you see your neighbour being checked just because they look ‘different’, intervene and ask why!”
The police have now apologised, with a spokesman saying: “The wording in this letter is ostracising. The impression is that immigrants should not attend carnival events.”
Much of Germany will be brought to a standstill this month when six days of parades and balls kick off, culminating on February 27 in Rose Monday processions in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Mainz.
Security has been tight in Cologne since the New Year’s Eve 2015/16 attack which saw hundreds of girls molested by migrants in the city centre.
Sigrid Krebs, a spokesman for the Cologne Carnival Festival, said: “Everyone is very welcome at the Cologne carnival.”