19 January 2016. ECRE condemns the vile assaults against women that occurred in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. Everyone also has the right to feel protected by the State. The events of Cologne violated these rights, represented criminal action and were a direct assault on human dignity.
All perpetrators of the attacks – irrespective of their nationality – must be brought to justice. Respect for the rule of law and for fundamental rights and freedoms are core European values that need to be upheld every day by all, including by migrants and refugees.
Regrettably, violence against women is a huge phenomenon in Europe. According to a recent Fundamental Rights Agency report, 55% of EU women interviewed stated to have experienced some form of sexual harassment since the age of 15. Moreover, migrant and refugee women and girls face violence and sexual harassment at every stage of their journey to Europe, including on European soil. Violence against women can never be tolerated and must be addressed.
At the same time, it is essential to avoid sweeping generalisations. With well over one million refugees arriving in Europe last year, actions of a few cannot be used to put the blame on others who are peacefully rebuilding their lives, and are also shocked by these events.
The violent New Year’s Eve of Cologne must not be used as an excuse to refuse to live up to our obligation to protect the right to asylum or to stigmatise refugees and immigrants as a group. In this regard, ECRE deplores the fact that these events have become a pretext for some groups to push an anti-refugee agenda. Rather, Europe requires vision and leadership in continuing to protect refugees in accordance with European and international human rights law.
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