Germany's Criminal Police Office have registered a growing number of crimes in refugee and asylum centers. Now the interior minister wants to keep track of crimes committed by, and targeted at, migrants.
In an interview with the mass-market "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper, Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) President Holger Münch said offenses in accommodation for asylum seekers had increased "enormously" but still amounted to what he called a "relatively low" number of cases.
People living in the accommodation, particularly many young men, have spent many months in a confined space and "under conditions that promote crime," he added.
"Migrants, particularly from the Balkans or from North Africa - especially Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians - commit criminal offenses," Münch said, adding that such cases were less frequent among Syrian and Iraqi immigrants.
According to the BKA president, half of the offenses at the refugee homes were violent crimes, such as assault, but there was also an increasing number of sexual offences and homicides.
Nevertheless, the number of cases is still "relatively low," Münch said, adding that the level of crime is not growing "as fast as the number of refugees" entering the country.
Cologne sexual assaults
Following reports of dozens of attacks on women at New Year celebrations in Cologne, sexual assaults have become a main priority for BKA investigators, Münch told "Bild am Sonntag"newspaper.
Witnesses in front of the Cologne's main train station in the early hours of January 1 described many of the perpetrators as being of North African or Arab origin.
"We're now analyzing whether there is a link between immigration and the sexual harassment of women in Germany," Münch said.
At the same time, Münch rejected allegations that police had concealed the origin of offenders, reiterating that the nationality and residence status of suspects could be accessed on the BKA website.
"It's our job to inform about a criminal situation objectively," Münch said. "That's why we're working with the German states to provide an up-to-date picture of crime in the context of immigration."
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper that he wanted officials to maintain a tally of crimes committed by migrants as well as criminal acts targeting them.
Reports of the Cologne attacks have also renewed criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy on refugees and migrants, with some 1.1 million new asylum seekers registered in the last year alone.
Thousands of Germans, particularly in Dusseldorf, a city near Cologne, have joined Facebook groups claiming to promote vigilante city patrols in response to the attacks.
In Cologne on Monday, a group of six Pakistanis was also attacked by a gang of about 20 people, while a Syrian national was reportedly targeted in a separate attack by a group of five people.
Fears over right-wing cells
In light of the growing violence against refugees, Münch warned against vigilante groups and the emergence of right-wing terror cells, modeled after the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground.
The police therefore "need rapid identification results and judgments in order to break the momentum of right-wing extremist offenses," Münch said. "Otherwise, in the worst case scenario, terrorist groups can form."