COLOGNE (ChurchMilitant.com) - A German prosecutor is confirming the vast majority of suspects responsible for a rash outbreak of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve are refugees.
According to Cologne prosecutor Ulrich Bremer, of the 73 suspects identified as having participated in an unprecedented flare-up of crime on December 31 in several German cities, "[t]he overwhelming majority of persons fall into the general category of refugees."
Media reports had indicated that only three of the suspects were refugees, a statistic Bremer calls "total nonsense." The Cologne official revealed the current suspects include 30 Moroccan nationals, 27 Algerians, four Iraqis, three Syrians and three Tunisians, with three individuals identifying as Libyan, Iranian and Montenegrin, respectively. The remaining three are German citizens.
Bremer says the suspects all have "various legal statuses, including illegal entry, asylum-seekers and asylum applicants." This, he continues, "covers the overwhelming majority of suspects."
Of the 73 individuals, 12 are alleged to have committed sexual crimes; a Moroccan refugee is the only one currently in custody.
The crimes in question took place on New Year's Eve, mostly concentrated in the city of Cologne in western Germany. Eyewitnesses claim groups of as many as 60 males described as "North African or Arabic" in appearance would surround young women, groping them and attempting to steal their belongings.
Within the first few days following the incidents, 90 women reported being sexually assaulted and robbed by young men. Since that time, a total of 1,075 criminal complaints have been filed with authorities; of these reports, 467 involve sexual crimes, including anything from verbal insults to rape.
Cologne residents accused the city's officials of whitewashing reports that the attackers were refugees in order to avoid flaring up the ongoing controversies surrounding Germany's acceptance of nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers. The mayor of Cologne, which has accepted more than 10,000 refugees, asserted there were "no indications that this involved people who have sought shelter in Cologne as refugees."
The incidents, however, sparked multiple protests, demanding action from German authorities and questioning Chancellor Angela Merkel's ability to lead the country. A recent poll indicated four out of 10 Germans are demanding Merkel resign.
German bishops have since backtracked on earlier pushes for the country to continue accepting refugees, with Cdl. Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and head of the German Bishops' Conference, admitting that "Germany cannot accommodate all the destitute of the world."
In the United States, the Conference of Catholic bishops has supported the annual resettlement of 100,000 Syrian refugees across the country, in addition to 100,000 more from various other countries, despite outcry from many across the political spectrum. The vast majority of these refugees are Muslim, and only a small fraction Christian.
In a statement, Abp. Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged
all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons — made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.
Pope Francis has also called on Western European countries to assist in the crisis, asking "every" parish to take in at least one refugee family.
Germany is planning on accepting more than 500,000 refugees annually over the course of several years.