The small town of Rheinberg has said it will cancel the annual Carnival parade in light of concerns about migrants. The mass sexual assaults in Cologne have raised fears about another such incident in the future.
Jonny Strey, public security chief of Rheinberg, in the Lower Rhine region, said the town was canceling the parade partly because of concerns that men with migrant backgrounds could misbehave during the festivities.
"We've never had 4,500 Germans encounter 500 foreigners in such circumstances," Strey told the German news agency DPA. He said the mass sexual assaults that occurred in Cologne on New Year's Eve had influenced the decision.
On February 8, thousands of costumed Germans across the region will take to the streets in alcohol-fueled celebrations of Rose Monday, the high point of Carnival. However, the attacks in Cologne have left some German officials worried that migrant men with little knowledge of the annual tradition could misinterpret or take advantage of the raucus atmosphere to commit similar sexual assaults.
Too much to handle
Rheinberg officials expressed doubt that the local police force would be handle such incidents should they occur. In nearby Orsoy there is a hostel where some 500 migrants are living as they await refugee status, a factor that has led to the precautions being taken.
Strey stressed that the migrant issue was just one factor that led to the parade being shut down. Others included disruptions to traffic and the possibility of spectators - not only migrants - becoming unruly during the parade.
Police had asked parade planners to organize a security plan that would take all of these risks into account, but the organizers were unable to come up with one in time.
Germans were shocked when allegations emerged that about 1,000 men - many of them of migrant backgrounds - sexually molested women near the main train station in the western city of Cologne on New Year's Eve. The episode has increased the pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose unpopular refugee policies have led to criticism from politicians on both sides of the spectrum.
blc/rc (dpa, epd)