A 26-year old Algerian asylum seeker is the first person to be arrested on charges of sexual harassment after a series of assaults in the center of Cologne which shocked Germany and incited a new debate on the effects of mass immigration. The man, who was arrested at a refugee home in Kerpen this weekend, is accused of groping a woman and stealing her phone. Two other Algerian asylum seekers were also detained because police found stolen phones on them.
So far 838 people have filed criminal complaints, including 497 women claiming to have been sexually assaulted. As of now, police have launched preliminary investigations into 21 people — all originating from Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia — and and eight of them are held in detention. While the police in Cologne set up a special unit to investigate the NYE assaults, they warned that identifying perpetrators, let alone convicting them, would be difficult, given the chaotic nature of the events that night, the lack of video footage and the fact that few women could clearly identify the perpetrators.