From German authorities accused of migrant attack cover up:

Elsewhere, a high-ranking Frankfurt police officer told Bild, strict instructions had been given not to volunteer information about crimes committed by refugees.

Details should only be disclosed in response to direct questions from journalists.


A spokesman for the provincial government of Hesse, admitted that press officers had been advised to discreet [sic] rather than risk triggering a backlash from right-wing extremists.

This article was linked to with the summary

Bild newspaper has published allegations that police forces around the country are under orders not to report crimes involving refugees to the press.

Were German police instructed not to report crimes committed by refugees to the media? (I assume "report" is used as in "media report", not "criminal report")

  • 1
    Bild is a tabloid, it is certainly not a trustworthy source. But there were pretty damning reports about the incidents in Cologne on New Year's Eve that the police leadership did downplay or omit entirely the possible involvement of refugees.
    – Mad Scientist
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 9:25
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    Bild just published "allegations"; they can be confirmed or denied by other sources.
    – Avery
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 12:24
  • This is not Bild, but something that has been repeatedly alleged, and confirmed for at least a year. Some 2-3 months ago, police made a public statement that they "forgot to mention because it did not seem important" when challenged with this exact thing. Even now, in the face of a group of a thousand migrants having attacked women in Cologne and government being unable to deny it (because of the size of the incident), the official stance is "not to draw the conclusion that these were migrants" - while police reportedly identified them as such.
    – Damon
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 17:44
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    You tagged this with sexual-abuse (probably because of New Year's Eve sexual assaults and robbery in Germany), but the claim is about any crime, not only sexual abuse, isn’t it?
    – unor
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 19:14
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    Isn't it already standard police procedure to not release speculative information about suspects beyond witness descriptions of their appearance, unless there's a warrant and a manhunt for an individual? Surely the police couldn't say "X crime was committed by a refugee" for the same reason they couldn't say "X crime was committed by an accountant" or "X crime was committed by a vegetarian" - it's not a physical characteristic, so you can't know it's true until there's a conviction? Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 23:11

1 Answer 1


Context: Attacks on Refugees

In the first three quarters of 2015, there have been 505 attacks on places where refugees live.

Until the 7th of December 2015, that number grew to 817.

These numbers do include things like Volksverhetzungen or smaller property damages, but officially, 130 are classified as violent, among them 68 arson attacks. This official count is somewhat disputed, the Zeit for example classifies 222 of the attacks as violent. 104 people have been injured in these attacks, but luckily there have not been any deaths yet (that I know of).

Here, you can find a list of attacks.

For context, it should also be noted that there was a wave of attacks on refugees in the 90's, which resulted in a number of deaths and which is still remembered by many.

The current - and former - attacks on refugee centres are important for context, as it may change how police handle information, as there is a real danger that certain parts of the press will exaggerate the amount of crimes committed by refugees, which could result in even more attacks. It also makes it important for the police to handle information accurately, which may delay the issuing of press releases.

Context: Police and Media

The police in Germany does not have to volunteer information; they have the right to keep information private, or only disclose it in response to direct questions.

If the police have a valid reason, they also have a right to withhold information, even in response to direct questions.

For example, the police may withhold information if it helps them to combat terrorism, or if releasing information may interfere with catching criminals (see for example Polizei und Presse: Rechtsprobleme der polizeilichen Öffentlichkeitsarbeit), or the different laws of the states (Landespressegesetz).


There have been a number of accusations that the police is not volunteering information, but I am not aware of any accusations that the police is not giving information when it is requested.

Basically, the scandal is not that the police are not issuing press releases for every crime - because they just don't do that, because there is no public interest, and it would be way too many - and the scandal is also not that the police withheld information when directly asked, but the issue is that police may have been instructed not to issue press releases for crimes in connection with refugees in general, or that they have been instructed to check if it is actually necessary to issue press releases for these cases.

  • Hessen (Frankfurt, the case you mentioned): The minister of the interior denied the accusations (source). You can find the original tabloid article here, but it should be noted that Bild is not known for always being the most accurate newspaper. Still, even Bild says: "Jedoch: Ohnehin wird nicht jede Straftat in Deutschland automatisch veröffentlicht", which basically means that a press release is not made for every crime anyways.
  • Thüringen: A newspaper cites from an email from the director of the police: "[Bei] Einsätzen in den Unterkünften, die keine Außenwirkung erzielen [sollen] keine Pressemeldung gefertigt [werden, nur ] bei eventuellen Anfragen [von den Medien soll Auskunft gegeben werden]". This basically means that police should not volunteer information, except if the event had visibility or if the media asks about it themselves (which is more or less how most cases are actually handled anyways, so if such an instruction existed, it basically says to handle crimes of refugees like crimes of anyone else). (source) (source). These accusations have been denied by the minister president. (source)
  • Schleswig-Holstein: A newspaper accused the police of not issuing press releases when crimes happen in connection with refugees. The police denied these accusations, and said that the seriousness of the offense and the current state of information are deciding factors for when press releases are issued. (source) The newspaper also alleged, that they were told not to report an exact list of crimes committed by refugees, as it might cause violence against refugees.
  • "Volksverhetzungen" needs defining.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 20:24
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    @AndrewGrimm there isn't really a direct translation. I probably should have linked the englisch wikipedia article on Volksverhetzung. An excerpt: " [Volksverhetzung] is a concept in German criminal law that refers to incitement to hatred against segments of the population and refers to calls for violent or arbitrary measures against them"
    – tim
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 20:37
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    @AndrewGrimm It should probably also be noted that the hurdle for Volksverhetzung is rather high. I'll quote wikipedia again: 'It is a common misconception that Volksverhetzung includes any spreading of Nazism, racist, or other discriminatory ideas. For any hate speech to be punishable as Volksverhetzung, the law requires that said speech be "qualified for disturbing public peace"'
    – tim
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 20:40
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    @JRE: Everything after answer refers to crimes committed by refugees, everything above is provided as a context. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 11:37
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    @JRE read past the first couple of paragraphs, and you'll see it's part of an answer explaining that being careful about what information is divulged about ongoing investigations is standard police procedure, and not therefore evidence of a politically motivated cover-up as per the claim Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 2:12

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