North africans only a minority?

North africans only a minority?

Police action on New Year's Eve in Cologne © Henning Kaiser

A tweet about "Nafris" had brought criticism to Cologne police after the recent New Year's Eve incident. Two weeks later, the question now arises whether there were so many North Africans among the young men at the main train station at all.

"At the HBF several hundred Nafris are examined at present. Info to follow." This is what the Cologne police tweeted on New Year's Eve. The abbreviation "Nafri" for North Africans was criticized as pejorative the very next day. Two weeks later, the question now arises: were the majority of the aggressive young men not North Africans at all?

Police chief Jurgen Mathies had distanced himself from the public use of the term "Nafris" even on New Year's Day. At the same time, he said that the young men whom the police had checked at the main station were predominantly North Africans.

No clear picture

Two weeks later, a less clear picture now emerges. On Friday, the police gave an interim status of their investigations. According to them, on New Year's Eve, a total of about "2000 North African or Arab-looking young men" came to the main train station and the Deutz train station. In 674 cases, he said, we now have secure personal data, and in 425 cases we can say something about nationality. Of those 425, 99 were Iraqis, 94 Syrians, 48 Afghans and 46 Germans. Only 17 were Moroccans and 13 Algerians. The police did not want to name the remaining nationalities.

After the new figures had caused quite a stir, the police ied a press release in the afternoon: "The absolute representation of nationalities in the media is not correct," they clarified. In many cases doubts remained about citizenship. It is well known that North Africans often pretend to be war refugees from Syria in order to increase their chances of obtaining asylum. "It can therefore not be ruled out that among the 425 people there is still a larger number of North African young men."

But even if this should be the case, in any case it can be said that the proportion of North Africans was smaller than amed. It was not exclusively about the notorious "Nafris". This is the term used internally by the Cologne police to describe North Africans who have already attracted attention through criminal acts on several occasions. For years, young men from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have been a major problem around Cologne's main train station and cathedral. Many of them have specialized in stealing from tourists. The suspects of the disastrous New Year's Eve 2015/16 with numerous sexual assaults on women and mass cell phone thefts were also predominantly North Africans.

Aggressive young men

The fact that the police were quick to speak of North Africans after the most recent New Year's Eve may also have had something to do with the fact that they did not want to repeat the mistakes of the previous year. At the time, police had initially kept a low profile on the nationality of the suspects – and had been heavily criticized for that very fact.

Ultimately, however, nationality is not the decisive factor, argued police spokesman Wolfgang Baldes on Friday. For the police, she said, something else was important: The men, who had arrived in large groups at the main train station before midnight, were "young, aggressive and intoxicated". According to this criterion they had been examined. The result, he said, was a very successful operation – there were only a few reports that night.

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