This article is part of the Echoes of Cologne forum. Click here to read the introduction and the other contributions.
New Year’s Day, 2016, brought news that hundreds of female New Year’s revelers in Cologne, Germany, had been encircled, robbed, and sexually assaulted by groups of ‘North African’ and ‘Arab’ looking men. The news was a blow to the advocates of Willkommenskultur –an ethos of openness and care that took hold in Germany in the summer of 2015 as thousands of Syrians made their way through Europe in search of asylum. Drawing parallels between the Syrian refugee crisis and the displacement of millions of Europeans after World War II, voluntary organizations (and some government officials) pushed back against anti-immigrant sentiment, positing refugees as deserving victims and as potential contributors to the German economy. Discourses of deservingness, however, have proven fragile in the wake of events in Cologne. Opponents of refugee resettlement throughout Europe have seized upon this episode, and the terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015, as evidence of the great perils that await Europe if refugee flows continue.
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