New Year’s Eve 2022/2023 was marked by physical attacks on fire brigades and police in many German cities. Rioters in Berlin, Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia were particularly brutal. Several hundred people were arrested as a result, and now German politicians are disputing about the causes of the violence against law enforcement.
In Berlin, Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia in particular, emergency services from the fire brigade and police were attacked on New Year’s Eve. According to the police, 41 Berlin emergency services were injured. A police spokesman was unable to provide any information on the severity of the injuries. A spokesman said there were 159 arrests in connection with the incidents. Rioters were mostly young men or teenagers, he said.
Across party lines, German politicians are now discussing how much the excesses of violence against emergency and security services on New Year’s Eve are related to a failed integration policy. The North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) said: “The rioters were apparently predominantly young men in groups, often with a migration background.” The deputy chairman of the Conservatives in the Bundestag Jens Spahn (CDU) made a similar statement. “It’s more about unregulated migration, failed integration and a lack of respect for the state instead of fireworks.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party also sees a possible connection between the acts of violence and unresolved integration problems. “The violent excesses on New Year’s Eve make it clear that the causes lie much deeper and are not limited to the turn of the year,” said the deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Dirk Wiese. He identified “lack of social participation, social isolation with fears for the future and failures in integration in some parts of the city” as the causes.
After initial investigations by the police, more and more is gradually becoming known about the suspects. In Berlin, where there were particularly violent riots and attacks on emergency services, the police reported that of the 145 people arrested on New Year’s Eve, 100 were foreigners. According to a spokesman, 45 have German citizenship. A total of 18 different nationalities were recorded. These included 27 Afghans and 21 Syrians; taken together, they make up around half of those arrested with foreign nationality. All those arrested have now been released, as suspects must be released after 48 hours at the latest if no pre-trial detention is ordered.
The social-democratic Senator for the Interior of Hamburg announced that more than 20 suspects had been taken into custody or arrested in connection with attacks on the police and fire brigade. These are young men and incidents took place in hot spots, he said. Some of them are known to the police. “The issue of migration background also plays a role here,” said the Interior Senator.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior announced yesterday in Berlin that a nationwide assessment of the events would be delayed until all states had submitted their reports. A spokesman for the Interior Minister rejected the accusation that Minister Faeser was avoiding a discussion about a possible connection between the attacks on the emergency services and a failure of integration efforts: “Where it comes to suspects with a migration background, she also names that very clearly,” so the spokesman.
Although German social democracy has so far repeatedly refused to view the integration policy as a failure, more and more politicians are now reporting that they no longer want to go along with this snuggly course. “It’s sobering for me to see that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in the debates with which I began my time in professional politics in the interior committee of the Berlin House of Representatives more than 21 years ago,” says Fritz Felgentreu, a longtime professional politician of the SPD. In many German cities there has been a social underclass for decades that is ethnically and religiously one-sided. “Young people, who have little else to be proud of, are taking pride in a Muslim interpretation of machismo.” A weak state would then be helpless in the face of their riots.
“In essence, it is about the question of the social permeability of an immigration society. But also about the assertiveness of a democratic constitutional state,” emphasizes Felgentreu. Unfortunately, the same debates have been going on for years, and not enough has changed. “We have become too complacent, where there is grievance we like to look the other way and hope it will mend itself.”
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