The mayor of a German city was forced to apologize for his comments about a shocking gang rape case, which has drawn a new wave of criticism toward the country’s lax immigration laws.

The crime occurred in the city of Ulm in the southwestern Baden-Wurttemberg state on Halloween but police only reported it this week. The 14-year-old victim was walking late and met with a group of teenage boys and men in their early 20s, one of whom she knew. She agreed to go to the home of one of the suspects and was gang-raped there.

Three suspects were subsequently arrested, while two more remain at large. At least two of them were confirmed by police to be asylum-seekers but their nationality or country of origin was not revealed.

Mayor Gunter Czisch was “shocked” by the crime, telling Sudwest Presse that “Ulm is a safe city but there is no such thing as absolute security.” The official then quickly made something of a detour, to ostensibly chastise the girl’s parents.

“I wonder, however, what a 14-year-old-girl would want in Ulm at night. Parents have a duty to ensure that an underage girl does not walk around the city alone. I want to be clear: we all have to take our duties seriously if we want to prevent cases like this one.”

His words immediately raised many eyebrows on social media, as commenters accused the mayor of being tone-deaf and engaging in victim-blaming. “The gentleman’s empathy is just cold,” one person said. “Unbelievable… who elects such people?” asked another.

Czisch quickly apologized, insisting he was misunderstood. “Of course, the girl is not at fault. The blame for this act lies solemnly and clearly on the suspected perpetrators,” he said.

Some critics felt that the official’s attitude reflects the government’s lax immigration laws and controversial ‘open doors’ policy with regards to asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Africa, which have flooded Germany since the mid-2010s. “Mayor Czisch wants to distract us from viewing crimes as being tied to irresponsible immigration and asylum policies. Quite pathetic,” one Twitter user said.

One lawmaker, from the anti-immigration ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) party, Martin Reichardt, argued that Czisch’s words exposed the “deceptive” rhetoric of the government. “Their failed asylum policy created thousands of such ‘isolated’ crimes,” he said.

An AfD politician from Ulm, Markus Moessle said that the authorities should focus on making the city safer for locals, rather than “a safe heaven” for asylum-seekers from abroad.

Migration remains a hot-button issue in German politics, as a number of terrorist attacks, rapes and other high-profile crimes were committed by asylum-seekers and refugees in recent years. In November, a failed asylum seeker murdered an 87-year-old-woman during a robbery attempt. In January, a refugee from Afghanistan stabbed a pregnant woman in a hospital, causing her to lose her baby.

During the 2015-2016 New Year’s Eve celebrations, hundreds of women in Cologne and other cities reported being sexually assaulted by gangs of migrants.


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