German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned Thursday a spate of assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve, calling the attacks "intolerable," according to the Wall Street Journal. Merkel also indicated she would be willing to make deportation practices stricter, while stepping up police presence.
Scores of women in the Rhineland city reported being robbed and sexually assaulted by large groups of men, described as Middle Eastern-looking by witnesses, during New Year's Eve celebrations. The attacks added to tensions in Germany over recently arrived refugees. But officials have said it was unclear if those who carried out the attacks were actually refugees.
Merkel said if changes to the law or an increased police presence are needed, those would be “necessary responses,” according to the Journal. She added that the federal government would look into whether enough has been done to enforce the deportation of culprits in order to send a "clear sign" to those who violate Germany's laws.
Tensions rise in Germany over handling of mass sexual assaults in Cologne https://t.co/rSQvvtHkFk
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 7, 2016
“Women’s feeling of complete defenselessness is intolerable, also to me personally. Therefore, it’s important that everything that happened gets brought on to the table," Merkel said, according to the Journal. “Of course, some very serious questions arise from what has happened, which go beyond Cologne. Questions arise whether there have been connections, joined behavioral patterns and also whether some groups are subscribing to misogyny." The chancellor added that the attacks, which she had already called "disgusting," needed to be addressed "resolutely."
"I don’t believe these have been only isolated cases,” she said after a meeting with Romania’s visiting Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş, the Journal reported.
One senior German official said the attacks in Cologne necessitated that police rethink their tactics. "The police have to conceptually adjust to the fact that there are apparently groups of perpetrators who assault women en masse," said Ralf Jaeger, interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where Cologne is located, according to the BBC. "This must not happen in our society, and the police as well as the city authorities have to react to it."