A poll published Friday by broadcaster ZDF found that 60 percent of Germans now say the country cannot handle the influx of refugees, which totaled 1.1 million in 2015.
The same question was put to Germans in December and, at the time, only 46 percent were pessimistic about the country’s ability to handle the refugees. The poll also found that 70 percent of respondents believe the open border policy will result in increased crime. That’s up from an already high 62 percent in October.
The new poll is a direct rebuke to a repeated assurance made by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel has promoted her open border policy using the reassuring phrase, “We will manage.” Up until recently, it seemed a majority of Germans agreed.
The dramatic change in the numbers is attributed to what happened in Cologne and other German cities on New Years Eve. Though police initially reported a “relaxed” atmosphere at the evening celebration, the New York Times reports that as many as 50 police reports were filed, alleging theft and sexual assault, in the early hours of January 1st. It remains unclear why police initially gave such a misleading description of what had occurred.
The stories of women who have come forward to talk about what they experienced are remarkably consistent. Hundreds of foreign men, some speaking Arabic, filled the plaza between the train station and the cathedral. Groups of men would surround women and then begin groping them. In many cases phones or wallets were stolen, but some victims say the men seemed less interested in stealing than in giving free rein to their lust.
Sara described how hundreds of “foreign” men circled her and a friend as they arrived at the train station. She told them to keep away and then ran to the nearest police patrol for safety, but the police were overwhelmed. “I never experienced that a policeman says, ‘I would love to help you, but I can’t.’ That was really the worst,” Sara told the NY Times.
Both of the women who spoke to the NY Times Thursday asked that their full names not be used because they were worried about a backlash on social media. One woman who gave a television interview about her experience in Cologne last week became the subject of a viral Internet video in which her full name, which she had not previously released, and place of work were revealed. The video was viewed about a quarter of a million times and resulted in social media accusations that she was a racist and threatening phone calls at work. The video was taken down after the woman threatened its creator with a lawsuit.
The total number of complaints filed with Cologne police now stands is 653, with 331 of those involving sexual assault, and several of those assaults reported as rape. So far, 19 suspects have been identified by name in the attacks, 10 of them whom were seeking asylum, and the other nine of whom were illegal immigrants.