National Security & Defense

Mass Sex Abuse in Cologne: Part of a Disturbing Trend among Middle East and North African immigrants

Outside the railway station in Cologne, Germany. (Sascha Schuermann/Getty)

The details about New Year’s Eve in Cologne are starting to filter out.

Eighteen-year-old Michelle and  her group of eleven friends were walking down to the banks of the Rhine to watch the fireworks over the river when “suddenly we were surrounded by a group of between 20 and 30 men,” she told a German television station. “They were full of anger, and we had to make sure that none of us were pulled away by them. They were groping us, and we were trying to get away as quickly as possible.”

An unnamed man described how his partner and 15-year-old daughter were pulled away from him by a similar gang: “The attackers grabbed her and my partner’s breasts and groped them between their legs.”

Steffi, 31, told the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that she arrived at the Cologne train station to find “countless women weeping.” “I saw a girl . . . who was crying, with ripped stockings, her skirt askew — she was just wrecked.” Says Steffi, “A young guy came out of the crowd and made vulgar comments. ‘Can I help you? I know I can help you,’ he said with a strong accent and made obscene gestures with his hand. When she wanted to get away, he followed her.”

These are the sorts of incidents that German officials apparently tried, until early this week, to cover up — because the perpetrators, perhaps 1,000 in total, were identified by witnesses as being of “Arab” or “North African” origin.

Yet the events in Cologne (and Hamburg and Stuttgart) are nothing new; nor is the response from authorities.

RELATED: What Happened in Cologne — and Hamburg?

Those wary about massive immigration from the Middle East and North Africa tend to look to Scandinavia because of its largesse toward migrants and refugees. Sweden took in swathes of refugees from the war-torn Middle East and the Horn of Africa in the 1980s and then, in the 1990s, from the former Yugoslavia, and the trend persists. In 2007, the Swedish town of Södertälje — population: 60,000 — took in nearly 1,300 Iraqi refugees, or 5 percent of all Iraqis who arrived in Europe that year. And the number of refugees coming to Sweden tripled from 2010 to 2014. Today, 16 percent of Swedish citizens were born in another country, and of Sweden’s 1.7 million foreign-born citizens in 2010, almost a quarter were from the Middle East or the Horn of Africa, according to that year’s Statistical Yearbook of Sweden. As reported in Britain’s Daily Mail, Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, who himself has an Iranian-Kurdish background, says that his country is engaged in “an irreversible social experiment that no wealthy state has ever attempted.”

Finland and Norway have somewhat different recent immigration histories: Non-Europeans constitute a little less than half of immigrants to Finland, for example, and the country has a strict refugee policy. But those countries, too, are pursuing a Sweden-style social experiment.

RELATED: How Long Can Europe’s Welfare States Welcome Refugees and Migrants?

And preliminary results are troubling. While cross-national comparisons are difficult, as of 2010, Sweden — welcoming, peace-loving Sweden — had the third-highest rate of rape per capita in the world, at 63 victims in every 100,000 Swedish residents. Only South Africa, where widespread rape is a brutal legacy of colonial rule and decades of apartheid, and neighboring Botswana were higher. Sweden does not keep official statistics on the ethnic backgrounds of attackers, but two studies by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), an agency of the Swedish Ministry of Justice, are suggestive.

Among Swedes ages 15 to 51 between 1997 and 2001, immigrants were 5.5 times more likely than native Swedes to be charged with rape.

A study that Brå published in 2005 found that, among Swedes ages 15 to 51 between 1997 and 2001, immigrants were 5.5 times more likely than native Swedes to be charged with rape, though the study did not further distinguish by country of origin. (Meanwhile, almost one quarter of all crimes were committed by foreign-born individuals, and another one fifth were committed by individuals born to foreign-born parents.)

A government study published almost a decade earlier found that, from 1985 to 1989, immigrants accounted for 61 percent of all rape convictions and that immigrants from Iraq, North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia), and Africa (excepting North African countries and Uganda) were, respectively, 20, 23, and 17 times more likely to be convicted of rape than were native-born residents. Some have noted that Swedish authorities use a comparatively broad definition of rape and report rape statistics in a way that is likely to inflate the numbers of individual incidents — but since those are relatively recent developments, they do not account for the findings in the earlier study.

#share#And, more to the point, findings in Sweden mirror findings elsewhere. In both Finland and Denmark, sexual violence is on the rise, and Denmark’s government-statistics agency reported that between 2004 and 2010, one third of Denmark’s convicted rapists were immigrants. That squares with the general consensus that immigrants are overrepresented among criminals in Scandinavian countries, but it raises the question Which immigrants? (In the United States, the evidence linking immigrant populations to crime is simply too thin for reliable conclusions.) In a 2011 study, researchers Lars Andersen and Torben Tranæs found that only non-Western immigrants — those from Middle Eastern and certain Asian countries — were overrepresented in overall Danish crime statistics. And looking at violent offenses in Finland in the Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, a trio of researchers found that immigrant populations from Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, and the rest of Africa (taken as a single statistical unit) were more likely than native-born Finns or other immigrant populations to include violent offenders.

A manual for the course advises male refugees: ‘To force someone into sex is not permitted in Norway, even when you are married to that person.’

Likewise in Norway. In 2011, Hanne Kristin Rohde, then the head of violent-crime unit of the Oslo Police Department, tried to alert superiors to what she later told the New York Times was “a clear statistical connection” between the increase in sexual violence and increased immigration from countries where “women have no value of their own.” She was studiously ignored. Now Norway is holding (voluntary) classes for male refugees whose views of women are different from those traditionally held by Norwegians. To understand just how wide is the cultural disparity that Norway is trying to address, note that a manual for the course advises students: “To force someone into sex is not permitted in Norway, even when you are married to that person.” The U.K.’s Independent has reported that legislators in Denmark reportedly are pushing for similar classes after three refugees from Eritrea allegedly raped a 25-year-old Eritrean woman in the city of Hjørring.

RELATED: The Rotherham Rapes’ Muslim Connection

But it’s not just Scandinavia. Great Britain is the site of surely the most monstrous example to date of Europe’s collective “See No Evil” policy when it comes to sexual violence perpetrated by immigrant Muslim populations. Between 1997 and 2013, at least 1,400 children in and around the town of Rotherham were raped, abused, and exploited by gangs of almost exclusively Pakistani men. In the official investigation, Professor Alexis Jay reported that victims

were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.

According to one young victim, “‘gang rape’ was a usual part of growing up in the area of Rotherham in which she lived.” Social workers, law enforcement, and elected officials who knew about the exploitation did nothing.

And sexual violence comes in other forms, too. In October 2014, the British National Health Service revealed that it had treated nearly 2,000 women and girls who had been subjected to genital mutilation. Meanwhile, back across the North Sea, 60 cases of genital mutilation were discovered by local health services in the Swedish town of Norrköpping last spring — including all 30 girls in one school class. Officials in both countries surmise that the girls’ parents, most of whom are immigrants from Middle Eastern or North African countries, subject their daughters to the practice during visits to their home countries over school holidays.

RELATED: Report: Entire Class of Girls in Sweden Found to Have Undergone Genital Mutilation

None of the episodes or statistics treated here merit sweeping conclusions. “Just as not all young Muslim males are terrorists, neither are they all rapists,” writes Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, and such caveats are important. The crimes of some ought not to be imputed to all. We should be glad that migrants are, in fact, enrolling in those Norwegian classes.

#related#But understating what is at issue here is not simply a mistake; it’s perilous. When a culture holds that rape, let alone other forms of sexual violence, is not just a lesser crime but no crime at all — that women possess no more dignity than that accorded to livestock or kitchen utensils — it is not just one of a host of minor obstacles along the path to coexistence. In Eritrea, an Eritrean migrant told the New York Times, “If someone wants a lady, he can just take her, and he will not be punished.” This isn’t a clash of mere “values.”

Nina Machibya, who manages a refugee center in Sandnes, Norway, says that the aim of the re-education program is to ensure that migrants “at least know the difference between right and wrong.” A lot is weighing on a voluntary, five-hour class.

— Ian Tuttle is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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