Monday 19 February 2018

Now Swedish officials face claims of covering up migrant sex attacks

German leader Merkel admits refugee crisis is out of control as officials identify attackers

‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident’ marching during a rally in Leipzig. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident’ marching during a rally in Leipzig. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
German chancellor Angela Merkel. AFP/Fredrik von Erichsen/Getty Images

Justin Huggler Berlin

Swedish police face allegations of a cover-up for failing to inform the public of widespread sexual assaults against teenage girls at a music festival last summer.

Police had not mentioned the August incidents at the We are Sthlm festival until newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported on them this weekend following a string of sexual assaults and robberies on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany.

Stockholm police spokesman Varg Gyllander confirmed there was "a large number" of sexual assaults during the five-day festival and that scores of suspects were detained.

He said police should have reported on the incidents at the time "given the nature of the crime". He denied suggestions in the newspaper report that police kept quiet because the suspects were foreigners.

"We probably should have communicated this," Mr Gyllander said. "But we wouldn't have discussed ethnicity at all."

Police in Germany have been criticised for not immediately reporting the incidents in Cologne, where authorities and witnesses later described the attackers as predominantly Arab and North African men.

Mr Gyllander could not confirm the ethnicity of the alleged attackers in Stockholm but said "this involves young men who are not from Sweden".

Roger Ticoalu, who heads the city government's events department, said that a "large part" of those detained were from Afghanistan, many carrying temporary ID-cards issued to asylum-seekers.

He said about 20 teenage girls filed complaints of sexual assault and that about 200 suspects were detained and ejected from the festival for sexual assault and other offences.

Mr Ticoalu said organisers received reports in 2014 of groups of young men and boys groping girls in a systematic manner. Efforts were put in place, including more security guards, to prevent a repeat in 2015 but instead the problem got worse, he said.

Dagens Nyheter cited police officials saying Swedish police are reluctant to speak publicly about crimes linked to migrants for fear of playing into the hands of the far-right Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party whose support has surged to about 20pc in opinion polls.

Separately, police in Malmö, Sweden's third city, said that on New Year's Eve gangs of young men surrounded women and molested them.

A couple of hundred men, described as "unaccompanied from Afghanistan", were involved in what was "a new phenomenon", a police spokesperson told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. No women made a formal complaint, police said.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last night that Europe had lost control of the refugee crisis, as she confronted growing public anger over the New Year's Eve sex attacks in Cologne.

"All of a sudden we are facing the challenge that refugees are coming to Europe and we are vulnerable, as we see, because we do not yet have the order, the control that we would like to have," the chancellor told a meeting of business leaders.

Her comments came after authorities in Cologne confirmed for the first time that the attacks were "almost exclusively" carried out by men "of an immigrant background".

Police have identified 19 suspects so far, including 10 who are in the country as registered asylum seekers. There are growing fears of a backlash against immigrants after 11 people were badly beaten in apparent revenge attacks in Cologne.

Irish Independent

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