Justin Huggler in Berlin
Germany’s most populous state has said it will not accept any more asylum seekers from Morocco, after migrants from the country were identified among suspects in the Cologne sex attacks.
Chancellor Merkel has battled to enforce her liberal policy on migrants but has been facing increasing opposition from some regions.
The government of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Cologne lies, said federal authorities had agreed not to send any more Moroccans to refugee accommodation in the state.
There is no suggestion that Moroccans will be blocked from entering the state if they enter.
“Immigrants from the North African region appear disproportionately as offenders,” Ralf Jäger, the state interior minister, said.
“Frequently the suspects are young men travelling alone.”
Mr Jäger said the state had already taken more than its share of Moroccan asylum seekers. Currently, 80pc of Moroccan migrants are in the state, chiefly in the two main cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf.
They have little chance of being granted asylum in Germany. Some 6,000 Moroccans in the state have had their claims refused and are theoretically due to be deported.
While Germany’s federal police say there is no link between crime and refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, there has been a sharp rise in crimes committed by North Africans.
Police in North Rhine-Westphalia say gangs of North African thieves and pickpockets are operating in the cities.
The move by the state came as Austria imposed strict quotas on the number of asylum seekers it will allow to cross its borders each day. In future, only 80 people a day will be allowed to apply for asylum in Austria, and a further 3,200 will be allowed to cross through the country on their way to Germany.
Meanwhile, women asylum seekers in Cologne have complained they are victims of sexual harassment.
In an open letter, women staying at a gym being used as a temporary refugee shelter said security guards had filmed and photographed them while they were showering, and pressured them for sex.
“For us, the gym is no shelter. It is a prison,” they wrote.
One Syrian woman said a security guard had asked her for sex.
“When I told him I was involved with someone and wasn’t interested, he told me I’d be thrown out,” she said.
“I am appalled at these allegations. I am sure they are unfounded,” Bernhard Deschamps, manager of the company responsible for the site, said.
The Cologne authorities said they would investigate the allegations. (© Daily Telegraph London)