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Germany grapples with integration after Cologne attacks

By Christina Okello

From June onwards north African migrants in Germany could find it more difficult to claim asylum or seek benefits. The German parliament is debating a new law to restrict migration from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, with claims that these countries are now safe and people leaving them do not really need asylum. But some rights groups say the debate is a response to attacks, blamed on migrants, against German women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

After waves of successive migration to Germany, stretching back as far as World War II, the country is today faced with vital decisions on how it deals with new arrivals.

Initially Turks, Poles and Russians flocked to the Rhineland. These days, the arrivals are migrants fleeing chaos in their home countries - from places like Syria, Afghanistan and more recently north Africa.

Whilst many Germans think their country should adopt a humanitarian response, given its wartime history, others call for a tougher stance in dealing with immigration.

Attitudes began to shift at the start of this year when it emerged that some north Africans had assaulted women on New Year's Eve at a railway station in Cologne.

The incident provoked a fierce backlash against the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Open Door policy and led to moves in parliament to toughen asylum laws for migrants coming from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

After the Cologne attacks the local police came under fire for failing to act sooner. But the incident has also opened the fault lines on what German identity is.

RFI's Christina Okello travelled to Berlin and Darmstadt to assess the attacks' impact on integration and see whether the country is turning inwards.

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