Police in the German city of Cologne rounded up hundreds of men “of North African appearance” in a New Year’s Eve operation to prevent a repeat of the mass sex attacks in the German city a year ago.
Security forces were criticised last year for failing to stop hundreds of robberies and sexual assaults around the city’s main station that were blamed mostly on men of North African or Arab origin and were taking no chances this time round .
Cologne police tweeted in German, English, French, and Arabic at around midnight on New Year’s Eve that they had screened “hundreds of Nafris”, a colloquial German term for North Africans, at the train station.
The tweet showed a photo of dozens of men penned in behind barriers in front of the station. Around 300 men of north African appearance were also taken off a train in another central station and had their identity papers checked.
Juergen Mathis, Cologne police chief, rejected accusations that his officers had conducted “racial profiling”, arguing that many of the men detained had acted in an “aggressive” manner. “I reject such criticism,” he told a press conference. “The clear aim was to prevent similar events to those of last year.”
Last year there was a mass outbreak of lawlessness in Cologne, which fuelled criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow over a million asylum seekers into Germany in 2015 and 2016.