Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called on Germans to avoid succumbing to a blanket suspicion of the hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in the country, saying an unbelievable number of rumors were being spread on the Internet.
But police union chief Rainer Wendt said he believed that authorities in Germany’s federal states, which are responsible for housing asylum seekers, were playing down the problem of assaults on women in the shelters.
“It is understandable that there is the desire to calm things down politically,” Wendt told Reuters. But he, along with women’s groups, believed that ignoring the problem would be counterproductive. “There is a lot of glossing over going on. But this doesn’t represent reality,” he said.
In a recent open letter, several charities alleged crimes had been committed a city shelter in the state. “There are several cases of rape and sexual assault and increasingly even reports on forced prostitution,” the joint letter said, adding that these were not isolated incidents.
Tuelin Akkoc, spokeswomen for refugee affairs with the opposition Green Party in Hamburg, accepted that far-right groups might use such reports to turn sentiment against migrants. But she told Reuters: “That’s no reason to sweep this issue under the carpet. Right now is the time for the authorities to raise their voices in order to prevent extremist groups from dominating the debate.”