Cologne : “criticisms on refugees are becoming increasingly hysterical”

The A year after the assaults on new year’s eve, the residents of Cologne speak-they-still many of these events ?

Siebo Janssen* : for More really. During the six or the first eight weeks of the new year’s eve, people were talking about it frequently, but this topic is so much discussed today.

These attacks have thus changed nothing in Cologne ?

You can’t say that either. The police presence was markedly increased in a year. From January to march, many more officers were on the streets of the city centre. Their number then dropped, but it was again more uniform since the beginning of the month of December. Surveillance cameras have also been installed around the central station.

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No camera has been set up near the cathedral ?

No. This place is very big and the crime is low. The police explained that the presence of surveillance cameras does not help really to find the suspects. The agents who patrol, however, are equipped with cameras, and laptops that allow them to film in the heart of the crowd.

The cafes and restaurants of the city are always crowded in the evening on the weekend ?

Over the months, the situation is back to normal. On Saturday evening, in the centre, the cafés are always full. The night of Saint-Sylvestre has especially caused a psychological change in the population. People are more critical vis-à-vis asylum seekers. Amalgam fillings are made, such as with the author of the bombing of Berlin, which was not a refugee but a Tunisian arrived before the wave of migrants from September 2015 after having spent four years in prison in italy. Some politicians take advantage of this situation to earn a few points in the polls.

In this regard, the party’s xenophobic and populist AfD reached 12 % of voting intentions in the Rhineland-of-North-Westphalia, a region, yet traditionally anchored to the left. The attacks of the new year have not participated in the success of this training ?

It is difficult to say. The inhabitants of Cologne are convinced that the laughter and the joy of living are the best way to combat fundamentalism and terrorism. This city is the most liberal ofGermany. The populists, whether the AfD or the movement Pro Köln, attract, and always not more than 5 % of voting intentions. However, it is undeniable that the AfD attracts more and more voters in Rhineland-of-North-Westphalia. Their success in some constituencies is directly related to the unemployment rate. The greater the number of job seekers is high, the more their popularity is great. It is for this reason that, in the basin of the Ruhr, which is a traditional stronghold of the social democratic party (SPD), the AfD seduced 15 % of the electorate. The attacks of the night of the new year and the attacks this summer as well as the Christmas market in Berlin contribute, however, to revive the national debate on asylum seekers. The criticisms become stronger and stronger and hysterical.

* Siebo Janssen is professor of political science and contemporary history at the university of Cologne.

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