Merkel urges Germans to stick to facts on refugee crime

Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Wednesday that Germany's record refugee influx last year had not led to a surge in violent crime, amid a rash of headline-grabbing cases.

Merkel urges Germans to stick to facts on refugee crime
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Asked about the rape-murder of a German student allegedly committed by a teenage Afghan asylum seeker and the recent arrest of a 31-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker over the sexual assaults of two Chinese students, Merkel urged Germans to stick to the known facts.

“These are terrible isolated incidents,” Merkel told rolling news channel N-tv on the sidelines of her CDU party's annual conference in the western city of Essen.

She called for “tough sentencing” in such cases but said she had faith in “the response of Germany's rule of law”, adding that general suspicion of refugees was not called for.

“We have looked closely at the crime rate among refugees and the picture is varied. That is also the right answer: that you have to differentiate,” she said.

“The fact that some people want to exploit that is something we have to withstand and defend ourselves against.”

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close Merkel ally, presented an official report on Tuesday about crimes committed by refugees and said it showed it was unfair to tar all newcomers with the same brush.

He said that property crimes were elevated among asylum seekers from Georgia, for example, compared to the general population, but that the findings showed no such trend among Syrians, who represent a much larger share of the latest influx.

Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in a general election next year, is confronting deep ambivalence among Germans about the arrival since early 2015 of more than one million asylum seekers.

While many have welcomed Merkel's decision to take in people fleeing war and misery, she has also seen a backlash among those doubtful about the ability of Europe's top economic power to integrate the newcomers.

A resurgent right-wing populist party, the AfD, has managed to capitalize on such fears, making strong gains in a string of state elections this year.

This week it directly linked Merkel's liberal border policy to the sex crimes against the three students.


German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.