What was behind the Cologne attacks?

Europe faces up to the challenges posed by the migrant crisis following the New Year's attacks in Cologne. Emily Hohler reports.

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New Year in Cologne: a celebration that turned sour

The "cloud of official obfuscation" over the mob sexual harassment in Cologne on New Year's Eve has finally lifted to reveal 516 offences, 40% of them sexual assault, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. Almost as horrifying as the attacks was the "institutional denial": a country admitting 3,200 asylum seekers daily was "clearly anxious not to alarm the natives".

The German equivalent of the BBC, Channel ZDF, explained its three-day delay in reporting the story, saying "You don't want to spread a bad mood", while the Cologne police admitted they were under orders "not to report if a crime was committed by new arrivals". Hundreds of similar criminal complaints have been lodged in cities throughout Germany.

Concerns were immediately voiced that refugees with "little grasp of Western laws or norms" posed a threat to women, but over the past week a "deeper alarm bell has sounded", says The Times. More than two-thirds of the refugees reaching Greece and southern Italy are male.

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A fifth are under 18 and, says Valerie Hudson, a professor at Texas A&M University, more than half of those are travelling as unaccompanied minors 90% of whom are males. This "heavily male subset" is "all but guaranteed asylum". Just one year into the refugee crisis, Sweden's sex ratio among 16- to 17-year-olds favours males more heavily than China's (123:100 to China's 117:100).

This is a serious problem, not least because this male exodus harms Syria's chances of returning to stability, says Valerie Hudson in Politico. Notably, Canada is accepting only women, accompanied children and families from Syria. Fear of terrorism may well play a part: almost all terror attacks are carried out by unattached young adult men, but numerous studies have shown that societies with "extremely skewed sex ratios" are more prone to violence, crime and anti-government activity "even without jihadi ideologues in their midst".

A decade ago, the "pioneering" German social scientist Gunnar Heinsohn pointed out that 60 out of 67 countries in which people aged 15-29 made up more than 30% of the population were ravaged by civil war or mass killing, and suggested that the main reason for this was not poverty or religion, but a "failure to provide a critical mass of young men with something constructive to do", says The Times. American and British policies are "evolving" in the same direction as Canada's David Cameron has decided to take only the most vulnerable people from refugee camps and as the rest of Europe "flails for a coherent policy", it should consider sex ratios too.

Of course, not all Muslim men behave violently and contemptuously towards women, says Melanie Phillips in The Times, but if men come from societies where women are deemed inferior and non-believers despised, it is "hardly surprising that the rate of sex crimes against women and female non-believers' is so high".

We are reluctant to acknowledge or talk about this in the West for fear of playing to uninformed racial stereotypes. And in fact of the19 men now under investigation forthe attacks in Cologne, according toThe Independent, at least nine are notin fact asylum seekers. Nonetheless,says Rod Liddle in The Spectator, the European authorities have downplayed these crimes or pretended they weren't serious in the hope that the rest of us simply would not notice.

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.