Dozens of women claim sexual harassment at German festival
Three asylum seekers are being investigated following a music festival in Germany
Festival goers enjoying an open air concert during the Schlossgrabenfest music festival in in Darmstadt, western Germany. German police arrested three asylum seekers after women made complaints of sexual assaults at the festival that took place from May 26th to 29th. Photograph: Boris Roessler/Getty Images
Three Pakistani men seeking asylum in Germany are being investigated after dozens of women said they were sexually harassed at a music festival over the weekend, prosecutors said.
The accusations follow mass sexual attacks on women at New Year’s Eve in Cologne which fuelled a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migrant policy.
After the festival in the western city of Darmstadt, which attracted 300,000-400,000 people over four days, 26 women made complaints of harassment and there are officially 18 injured parties, a spokeswoman for prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Several of the women said they had been surrounded by groups of up to 10 men, said Ferdinand Derigs, a spokesman for the Darmstadt police.
“These people then approached the women, danced around them and touched them in an inappropriate way,” Mr Derigs told the public broadcaster in the state of Hesse, where Darmstadt is located.
Groping “was apparently the main motivation,” Mr Derigs said.
In Cologne at New Year, hundreds of women said they were groped, attacked and robbed outside the train station. Police said the suspects were mainly of North African and Arab appearance. The police chief was forced to resign over the incident. A parliamentary inquiry into how matters deteriorated so badly in Cologne on New Year’s Eve is continuing.
The events in Darmstadt do not seem to be on the same scale but, following several complaints of sexual harassment at a parade in Berlin in May, they could compound fears about the integration of migrants and worsen social tensions.
There have been 449 assaults on migrant shelters so far this year, according to the interior minister.
Prosecutors said three men between 28 and 31, all asylum seekers originally from Pakistan, were arrested at the weekend and released and are now under investigation.
Two or three other men who were with them at the time have yet to be identified, prosecutors said.
Despite a fall in her own and her conservative party’s popularity, Ms Merkel has said that, even with hindsight, she would allow people in humanitarian need to enter Germany again, as she did last year.
“I recommend anyone who is fearful to take the opportunity to personally get to know someone who has fled to us. These are people who have experienced and suffered a lot and have their worries and hopes just as much as we do,” Ms Merkel told Bunte magazine.