Allegations of sexual harassment, theft, and assault by migrants on New Year’s Eve have emerged, more than a month after Frankfurt police announced that the night had passed off peacefully.
Angered by official reports that no incidents had occurred, one of the victims, backed by a bar owner and his staff, has come forward to tell Bild newspaper they were attacked in the early hours of New Year’s Day by a large group of Arab migrants on the Fressgass, an upmarket commercial street in the city centre.
The alleged victim, Irina A., 27, told the paper: “I’m thankful I wore sheer tights. They grabbed me under the skirt, between my legs, my breasts, everywhere.
“Me and my girlfriends. More and more of these guys came. Their hands were everywhere.”
The girls say they asked staff for help, but by 1 am the situation had spiralled out of control.
Jan May, 49, owner of the First In bar where the attack occurred, said: “When I came in, the whole place was full with a group of around 50 Arabs. They did not speak German, drank our guests’ drinks and danced towards them. The women asked me for help because they were being attacked. The mood changed completely.”
May quickly called staff at his restaurant around the corner to help with the situation, including a Moroccan employee who tried to talk to the men.
“They were highly aggressive, there was shouting and hand gestures,” he recounted.
Police were called but by the time they arrived the group had moved on to another bar.
May said tensions flared up again at 3 am. “The men had pushed their way into the Garibaldi and other bars – with pyrotechnics,” he said. “I was just in the Gibson when I was called and told ‘We’ve got problems with crowds of migrants’ again. I ran with three bouncers to the Fressgass.”
In a nearby café, “drunk North Africans threw bottles and chairs on guests and staff from the gallery”, severely injuring owner Thomas A. who was beaten by a gang. Back in May’s bar “one of them grabbed a knife from the counter, wanting to go for us”.
Again, the police were called but the migrants disappeared into the throngs of revellers.
The police say they had no knowledge of the incidents, but are now looking into them.
According to local paper the Frankfurter Neue Presse (FNP), the official line in early January was that the night had passed off peacefully with crowd numbers well down on previous years, in part thanks to stringent security measures including 600 on-duty officers – twice as many as in 2016. Concrete bollards and secure zones were also deployed to control the crowds.
Reports at the time noted that a total of 114 people were stopped by Frankfurt police on New Year’s Eve, 57 were searched, and 18 were taken into custody. Sixty-two investigations were opened, including violations of the law on narcotics or weapons, but also bodily harm.
Just one case of sexual harassment was reported – a young woman who was grabbed by an unknown assailant on the Iron Bridge, a popular spot for partygoers that evening. The 25-year-old immediately alerted a policeman, causing the suspect and four companions to be arrested while still on the bridge.
Hundreds of migrants are said to have travelled into the city by train for the evening’s festivities, although precisely how many is unknown. Bild puts the figure at 900 and says they travelled in by train from Mittelhessen. The FNP puts it much higher, at 1,900, “mostly North Africans”. Frankfurter Rundschau reported the gathered migrants as a “flashmob” and cited the federal police to put the number at 1,860.
May and his fellow bar-owners, who wanted to remain anonymous, say that they were moved to go public because they were angered at the way local politicians were claiming the security measures were a success.
A waiter, Pedro, said: “I have not experienced anything like that.” A colleague, Tony, said: “It was just bad.” The named victim, Irina, added: “I did not dare go home alone. I was traumatised.”