More cases of sexual assault in Europe

HELSINKI • After Germany, other European nations are reporting incidents of sexual assault on New Year's Eve, allegedly by refugees.

Several women were allegedly robbed and sexually assaulted in Zurich that day, Swiss police said, adding that the attack method appeared "a little bit similar" to that used in a spate of assaults in Germany.

Six women reported being surrounded by "several dark-skinned men", who robbed, groped and molested them. Police said that this was an unusually high number for Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Finnish police reported an unusually high level of sexual harassment in Helsinki on New Year's Eve and said they had been tipped off about plans by groups of asylum seekers to sexually harass women.

Helsinki deputy police chief Ilkka Koskimaki said: "There has not been this kind of harassment on previous New Year's Eves or other occasions for that matter... This is a completely new phenomenon in Helsinki."

Security guards hired to patrol the city on New Year's Eve told police there was "widespread sexual harassment" at a central square where around 20,000 people had gathered for celebrations.

Three sexual assaults allegedly took place at Helsinki's central railway station on New Year's Eve, where around 1,000 mostly Iraqi asylum seekers had converged.

"Police have... received information about three cases of sexual assault, of which two have been filed as complaints," Helsinki police said in a statement. "The suspects were asylum seekers. The three were caught and taken into custody on the spot."

Germany's ruling parties promised yesterday to crack down aggressively on migrants who commit crimes, after a series of sexual assaults on women in Cologne stoked debate about Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcoming policy towards refugees.

Cologne's police chief has said the perpetrators appeared to be of "Arab or North African" origin and the head of the police union in the region was quoted by German daily Die Welt as saying there were "definitely" refugees among them.

In response to the assaults, Dr Merkel's Christian Democrats have called for tougher penalties against offending asylum seekers, according to a draft paper seen by Reuters ahead of a party leadership meeting in Mainz. The paper says refugees and asylum seekers who have been sentenced to prison or probation should be barred from eligibility for asylum.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'More cases of sexual assault in Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe