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Lessons From the Cologne Assaults

Europe

Lessons From the Cologne Assaults

The shocking mass sexual assaults against women in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve have provoked public fury, including a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of welcoming asylum-seekers, who were among the suspects identified by authorities. To protect women and to ensure that Europe can maintain the political will to absorb millions of refugees fleeing war and deprivation, the Continent will have to face this problem head-on.

More than 500 complaints have been filed with the Cologne police, most for sexual assault. Similar New Year’s attacks occurred in Hamburg and Stuttgart. And the problem is not limited to Germany: The Swedish police are investigating a possible cover-up of assaults by migrant men at a festival last August.

Woefully ineffective policing is certainly to blame in Cologne — and must be improved — and Germany must also act swiftly against anyone convicted. The news that Ms. Merkel’s government is proposing changes to the law so foreigners guilty of sexual and other physical assaults can be deported will send a strong message that such crimes will not be tolerated.

Europe must also find a way to cope with a problem that has been largely ignored until now: sexual aggression by refugees from countries where women do not have the same freedoms as in Europe. Female refugees are often the first victims, reporting high levels of sexual abuse and violence, including being forced to “pay” smugglers with sex. They also report being abused by the police and other European men. More resources are needed to keep these women safe.

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