A Girl’s Killing Puts Germany’s Migration Policy on Trial

Something has shifted in Germany. Not so long ago, the logistical challenge and cost of integrating new migrants still dominated the public debate. These days, the growing unease with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policy has reached a new and febrile stage.

“I am scared,” said Jana Weigel, a 24-year-old dental assistant, as she lit a candle outside the DM drugstore where the killing took place.

Calls have multiplied for mandatory medical exams to determine the age of migrants claiming to be minors and for swifter deportations of those who — like the suspect — have been denied asylum.

A preliminary coalition agreement between Ms. Merkel’s conservatives and the more liberal Social Democrats announced on Friday includes a cap of 220,000 refugees per year and strictly limits the number of family members allowed to join a refugee in Germany.

Even in proudly tolerant and left-voting Kandel, the mood on the street has hardened. Many here took the killing personally. Before Mia broke up with Abdul, he had been welcomed into her family, Ms. Weigel pointed out, much like the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been welcomed to Germany.

“It makes you think,” she said, “how many others will betray our hospitality.”

Ms. Weigel’s sense of insecurity was reinforced by a widely publicized study showing that the number of reported crimes in the state of Lower Saxony had risen by more than 10 percent over the past two years and that the increase could be attributed overwhelmingly to cases involving refugees.

Half of that increase is due to the fact that crimes involving migrants are twice as likely to be reported, the authors of the study said. Many of the people accused of crimes are young men under 30, a demographic that is most likely to commit crimes, even among Germans.

Less publicized was the other major finding of the report: Over all, violent crime, including murder and rape, remains well below its 2007 peak. The number of young offenders has decreased by half since then.

“The paradox is that Germany is still a very safe country, much safer than even a few years ago,” said Christian Pfeiffer, a criminologist and a co-author of the report, which was commissioned by the government and released last week. “But the perception is the opposite: People feel less safe. And when something like this murder happens, it confirms that feeling.”

Ask the Germans paying their respects at the ad-hoc memorial for the girl who was killed — a sea of candles and messages and photos of her with friends — and they will reel off a list of crimes committed by migrants: A German woman who was raped by a Sudanese migrant in the nearby town of Speyer a few days earlier. Another woman who was raped and strangled by an Afghan in Freiburg just over a year ago.

Ms. Weigel, who has a 2-year-old daughter, no longer leaves the house after dark. Last month, a terrorist attack was narrowly foiled at an ice rink in nearby Karlsruhe, a 30-minute drive away.

“It feels like we’ve lost control,” Ms. Weigel said. “The state has lost control.”

Kandel is an orderly town of tastefully restored medieval houses and shops that close for lunch. It is also home to 125 refugees, most of them from Syria or Afghanistan.

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