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Hundreds Protest in Germany Following New Year's Eve Assaults

  • VOA News

Right-wing demonstrators hold a sign "Rapefugees not welcome - !Stay away!" and a sign with a crossed out mosque as they march in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 9, 2016. Women’s rights activists, far-right demonstrators and left-wing counter-protesters all took to the streets of Cologne on Saturday in the aftermath of a string of New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne blamed largely on foreigners.

Right-wing demonstrators hold a sign "Rapefugees not welcome - !Stay away!" and a sign with a crossed out mosque as they march in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 9, 2016. Women’s rights activists, far-right demonstrators and left-wing counter-protesters all took to the streets of Cologne on Saturday in the aftermath of a string of New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne blamed largely on foreigners.

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators gathered in the German city of Cologne to protest a rash of sexual assaults and robberies that took place during New Year's Eve celebrations in the city.

The attacks, which have been blamed on men of North African and Arab origin, have fueled calls for tighter controls on the country's immigration policies.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters from the anti-immigrant Pegida movement carried flags and banners, while nearby separate rallies were held by left-wing counter-demonstrators and a group protesting violence against women.

Hundreds of police have been deployed near the city's main train station, with some mild clashes reported.

Tighter asylum laws

Merkel German Chancellor Angel Merkel on Saturday proposed changes to German law that would make it easier to deny asylum to refugees convicted of crimes.

"The right to a residence status and an asylum procedure can be lost if someone is convicted, on probation or jailed," Merkel told reporters after a meeting of her conservative Christian Democratic Party.

German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel arrives with her deputy party leaders for the start of a two-day CDU party leadership meeting in Mainz, Germany, Jan. 8, 2016.

German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel arrives with her deputy party leaders for the start of a two-day CDU party leadership meeting in Mainz, Germany, Jan. 8, 2016.

Around 1,000 men are said to have surrounded, harassed and sexually assaulted women, many of whom were also robbed of their belongings, in front of Cologne's main train station on New Year's Eve.

More than 170 people have filed criminal complaints, including at least one report of a rape.

The Interior Ministry says German police have identified 32 suspects, with at least 20 of them being asylum seekers.

Police spokesman Christoph Gilles speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 6, 2016.

Police spokesman Christoph Gilles speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Cologne, Germany, Jan. 6, 2016.

Cologne's police chief was dismissed on Friday over criticism of his force's handling of the incidents.

Some 1.1 million people registered as asylum seekers in Germany in 2015.

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