The refugee wave ushered into Germany by Chancellor Angela Merkel is responsible for a surge in violent crime in the country, according to a government report published Wednesday.
Merkel, who is currently fighting for her political career as she seeks to cling to power in the wake of disappointing election results for her party in September, was applauded by left-wing media outlets and human rights groups when she opened up Germany's border to refugees from Syria and declared “Wir shaffen das” [We can do this.]
While the move earned her accolades, including Time’s Person of the Year in 2015, it also brought a wave of crime and terrorist attacks to Europe -- as well as sparking a populist political movement that has shaken the continent's political landscape.
Merkel has faced a significant backlash in her own country over the migrant crisis. A YouGov poll released last week found that 47 percent of Germans do not want Merkel to serve a full fourth term in office, and only 37 percent are in favor of another four years.
That negativity is likely only to be stoked by the report commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, and which examined the increase in violent crime in Germany in 2014 and 2016.
According to Die Welt, the study examined violent crime in the Lower Saxony region and found that there was an increase of 10.4 percent from 2014 to 2016. The report found that 92.1 percent of this increase was attributable to refugees, who it says are much more likely to be suspects corresponding to their share of the population.
According to Der Spiegel, the report also points to the lack of women in groups of refugees, as many travel without a partner, mother, sister or any female caregiver, meaning that male migrants are prone to a violent masculine culture. It recommends language courses, sports programs, internships and other activities for refugees to keep them out of trouble.
The government’s Ministry for Families said that the report shows that “those who come here musn’t be left to their own devices” and not allowed to become bored and frustrated.
"It is true that since 2015 there has been a rise in violent crime that the authors attribute to the arrival of refugees," a spokeswoman for the ministry told The Associated Press. "But they also make very clear that refugees aren't generally more criminal than for example Germans."
The report found that the violent crime came from specific minorities as well. Migrants from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia accounted for less than one percent of the refugees in the region, but accounted for 17.1 percent of suspects.
Refugee crime was back on the front of Germany newspapers in December when an Afghan asylum seeker was arrested for allegedly stabbing to death his 15-year-old German ex-girlfriend in Kandel, near the French border. While official sources registered him as a 15-year-old, his age has been disputed and caused some German lawmakers to renew their calls for medical examinations for refugees claiming to be minors.
The report comes at a sensitive time for Merkel, who has become the worldwide face of the refugee crisis. Her grip on power was weakened in September's election when her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), came out on top but with significantly fewer seats. The election saw significant gains for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD), which campaigned heavily on the issue of migration.
Talks between Merkel's CDU and the free-market Free Democrats and the Green Party quickly collapsed and left Merkel scrambling to convince the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) to agree to form a government. A similar arrangement had returned Merkel to power in 2013, but the SPD had indicated that it did not wish to enter into another coalition with her. Talks between the two have dragged on for three months since the election and have so far seen no agreement.
Merkel and other CDU members were scheduled to meet with representatives from the SPD Wednesday ahead of a fresh round of talks on Sunday as the parties attempt to form a working coalition. Should talks break down, it could mean a fresh round of elections later this year.