German police trying to avoid a repeat of the mass sexual assaults in Cologne a year ago have been accused of racial profiling after using the term “Nafris” to refer to people of north African appearance.
Officers in the city, where scores of assaults were committed on women by migrants at New Year a year ago, checked about 1,000 men of north African appearance this year as part of a huge security operation involving 1,700 officers. There were 92 arrests and 25 reported sex assaults.
The Cologne police later tweeted that it had controlled “hundreds of Nafris” in a relatively peaceful night in the city.
But in comments which have sparked a political correctness debate, Simone Peter, co-leader of the Green Party, said that the use of term Nafri was a “completely unacceptable degrading group name” and accused the police of racial profiling.
Ms Peter said: “The question of proportionality and legality arises when a total of just under 1,000 people are examined based on their appearance alone.”
Her colleague Volker Beck, the Green Party migration spokesman, added: “Police action must be based on threats or the behaviour of a person, not on their appearance. Everything else is contrary to the United Nations convention on racial discrimination.”
Police chief Jürgen Mathies apologized, saying he “regretted enormously” the use of the word Nafri, which he described as an internal police shorthand word which should not have been made public.
But writing in Deutsche Welle, journalist Jens Thurau lambasted those getting hysterical about the word ‘Nafri’, saying “We have bigger problems right now and should keep cool.”
“First let’s start with the facts. On New Year’s Eve, Cologne’s police wanted to prevent the fiasco of a year ago, for which they were rightly criticized: In 2015 they stood by (and at first did not even notice) as hundreds of young men, mostly from North Africa, subjected women to massive sexual harassment and in some cases attempted to rape them. That is why in 2016 the area around the cathedral was turned into a fortress guarded by 1,700 police officers. Hundreds of young men were screened, many of them banned from the premises and about 100 of them detained (including 16 Germans). The police found out from chatrooms that North Africans were planning to meet in Cologne again as they did the year before, and used the information to prevent a repeat of last year’s violence. And then, just before midnight, the police seemed eager for approval and tweeted, “Hundreds of Nafris screened at main railway station. Details follow.”
“It sounds disrespectful, but the tweet was posted in the heat of the moment…The police force was under great pressure, as its obvious duty was to prevent even a hint of last year’s situation. The reactions to this tweet were just as predictable as they were tedious. The Green party did not find the term acceptable and asked whether the police was conducting some kind of racial profiling, which is actually prohibited. The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) defended the police, and the Cologne police chief rejected the accusation of racism. And on Twitter, the Greens attracted a wave of hate from the highly opinionated permanent online community, which came up with far worse terms for “young men who look like they come from North Africa” than the rather harmless term “Nafris.”