‘Like Italian mafia’: German gangs recruit new members from asylum seekers, police chief to RT

German gangs are recruiting new members from asylum seekers, the head of the German police union told RT, adding there are cases when a few days after a refugee camp is set up, “black limousines” apparently containing gang recruiters were spotted.

“In Berlin we have big groups of criminal family clans, among them are groups with Arabic and Asian backgrounds as well as Russians. We have the entire spectrum here,” Bodo Pfalzgraf, head of the German police union in Berlin, said.

He added that the structure of such clans “is based on family connections.”

“You can compare this to the Italian Mafia. It is very hard to break in or establish connections with them. And witnesses are threatened into silence. Those criminal groups spread fear wherever they live and no one is bold enough to come forward, call police or report criminal activity.”

German authorities should ensure newly arrived asylum seekers don’t end up in these gangs, he said.

“There were cases when new refugee camps were opening, and within a few days we could see big black limousines parked outside. That's where criminals recruit the next generation of criminals.”

According to Pfalzgraf, underage people “without families” face the biggest risk of becoming involved in crime. “For example girls could end up in brothels,” he added.

“But the bigger danger is that we’re not sure who is in the country. We have no reliable information where people are and who they are. In Berlin alone there are probably around 20,000 people we know nothing about.”

Earlier in April, the German Die Welt newspaper reported that criminal gangs in Germany are taking advantage of the refugee influx by recruiting asylum seekers. 

According to investigators, the gangs have “exploited the situation,” seeing it as an opportunity to recruit “young and physically strong” men who can do “dirty work” including burglaries, drug trafficking and physical attacks.

Also in April, a report compiled by the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper stated that more than 5,800 refugee children were recorded as missing in Germany in 2015. It added that as many as 555 of them were under the age of 14.

Around 1.1 million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015. Merkel’s government has come under fire for the chancellor’s “welcoming policy” towards them.

A February poll by ARD Deutschlandtrend said more than four in five Germans believe Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government isn’t controlling the refugee crisis, and welcome tougher measures to deal with it.

READ MORE: 130,000 refugees vanished after being registered in Germany – media report

Europe continues to face the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Most asylum seekers are from Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed and more than 12 million displaced since a civil war began there in 2011, according to UN figures.