World

BERLIN (Web Desk) German gangs are recruiting new members from asylum seekers, according to the head of police union.

“In Berlin we have big groups of criminal family clans, among them are groups with Arabic and Asian backgrounds as well as Russians. We have the entire spectrum here,” Bodo Pfalzgraf, head of the German police union in Berlin, said.

The structure of such clans is based on family connections. “You can compare this to the Italian Mafia. It is very hard to break in or establish connections with them. And witnesses are threatened into silence. Those criminal groups spread fear wherever they live and no one is bold enough to come forward, call police or report criminal activity,” Mr Pfalzgraf said.

German authorities should ensure newly arrived asylum seekers don’t end up in these gangs, he urged. “There were cases when new refugee camps were opening, and within a few days we could see big black limousines parked outside. That’s where criminals recruit the next generation of criminals.”

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According to Pfalzgraf, underage people “without families” face the biggest risk of becoming involved in crime. “For example girls could end up in brothels,” he added.

“But the bigger danger is that we’re not sure who is in the country. We have no reliable information where people are and who they are. In Berlin alone there are probably around 20,000 people we know nothing about.”

Investigators say the gangs have “exploited the situation,” seeing it as an opportunity to recruit “young and physically strong” men who can do “dirty work” including burglaries, drug trafficking and physical attacks.

Also in April, a report compiled by the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper stated that more than 5,800 refugee children were recorded as missing in Germany in 2015. It added that as many as 555 of them were under the age of 14.

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Europe continues to face the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Around 1.1 million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015.

Merkel’s government has come under fire for the chancellor’s “welcoming policy” towards them.

German police lead arriving migrants across a field to a transport facility after gathering them at the border to Austria on October 28, 2015 near Wegscheid, Germany. Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer has accused the Austrian government of wantonly shuttling migrants in buses from the Slovenian border across Austria and dumping them at all hours of day and night at the border to Germany. German authorities have recorded over 7,000 migrants arriving daily since the weekend as a bottleneck of migrants in Slovenia and Croatia finally arrived in Austria. Germany has registered over 800,000 migrants this year and Chancellor Angela Merkel is mounting pressure on European Union member states that so far have shown great reluctance to accept any migrants at all to finally share the burden of accommodating the newcomers, many of whom are refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

Most asylum seekers are from Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed and more than 12 million displaced since a civil war began there in 2011, according to UN figures.