German police want refugees kept away from carnival
Police in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia are facing heavy criticism after an email surfaced in which they asked refugee centers not to organize carnival visits for their residents and tell them to willingly submit to police searches.
The letter, which was sent out by NRW police in anticipation of the kickoff of Cologne’s carnival celebrations on February 23, sparked outrage among politicians after being published by the local newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.
The letter cites security concerns in asking municipal-run refugee centers not to organize excursions to Karneval festivities for their residents this year in order to avoid “undesirable interactions” between the asylum seekers and the population. It also asked the centers to advise their residents to submit to police searches “without complaint.”
The letter was reportedly sent to 13 refugee facilities and state authorities in Cologne.
The police eventually confirmed that the letter had been sent out, but the state’s Interior Ministry has tried to distance itself from the email, saying it was “internal” and “unauthorized.”
“I won’t be telling the [refugee] families we have living here that they can’t go to the carnival parade,” Petra Jennen, an official from the central refugee center in Leverkusen, told the KSA, saying she had been “embarrassed” by the letter.
A number of German politicians have also expressed outrage over the email, accusing the NRW police of targeting asylum seekers.
“The accusation of racial profiling is rightly being made,” Marion Heuser, spokeswoman on political affairs for the Green party, wrote on Facebook, adding “the refugee council has pointed out that we live in a state of law in which no one must put up with being singled out for special treatment without complaint.”
“Karneval should be understood as a colorful and mixed celebration. And now refugees should be kept away from it? Is this about a subject feeling of safety again?” she added, as cited by The Local.
Councilor Lisa Gerlach of the Pirate Party voiced similar concerns
“How far it has already come,” she said, adding “we pirates expressly advocate that refugee helpers explain to the asylum seekers the importance of the carnival and then celebrate with them – because only in this way can integration succeed.”
Karneval celebrations in NRW, Germany’s most populous state, go back to at least 1823, when they were part of local resistance to the influence of French and Prussian occupation. The festivities in Cologne attract millions of visitor annually.
The state’s police are challenged to balance their approach to refugees. In January of 2016, they came under fierce criticism for their lax response to a spree of sexual assaults committed on New Year’s Eve, which were attributed to asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants. The national media was also slammed for failing to adequately cover the issue.
The Cologne police came under fire again during New Year’s celebrations this year for using the term “Nafri” to refer to North African immigrants. It was later revealed that, of the more than 650 people asked for ID, only a handful were actually from North Africa, prompting accusations of racial profiling.