Angela Merkel has said she will back tougher laws on deporting immigrants as far-right protesters marched in Cologne following a string of sex attacks allegedly committed by asylum seekers.

German federal police have confirmed that at least 32 people are suspected of playing a role in the violence on New Year’s Eve, 22 of whom are in the process of seeking asylum. Of the 32 suspects, nine were Algerian, eight Moroccan, five Iranian, and four Syrian. Three German citizens, an Iraqi, a Serb and a US citizen were also identified.

Gangs of men described by some of the alleged victims as being of North African or Arab descent are reported to have robbed, threatened or sexually assaulted 121 women as revellers partied near the city’s Gothic cathedral.

Germany’s far-right Pegida movement, one of the groups that say the assaults are proof that Merkel’s liberal migrant policy is failing, held a rally in Cologne on Saturday.

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