Outcry as German police use a racist slur against North Africans

Tensions run high in Cologne as German police implement controversial measures to prevent men of North African origin from partaking in New Year festivities.

Reuters/Handout: Reuters
Reuters/Handout: Reuters

The tactics of the Cologne police force triggered a debate over racial profiling and political correctness, with some deeming the measures necessary to prevents sexual assaults while others see it as institutional racism.

Police in the German city of Cologne are facing a backlash after using an offensive term coined to describe migrants from North Africa. The term ‘nafris’ was used in a tweet published on the North Rhine-Westphalia Police Department’s official Twitter page.

“Hundreds of Nafris screened at main railway station,” read the tweet, accompanied by a photograph of police obstructing a group of North African men from joining New Year’s Eve festivities in the city centre.

Cologne police chief Jurgen Mathies rejected criticism that his force’s tactics amounted to racial profiling, but said he regretted the term ‘nafri’ being used in a public notification.

He said the police took precautions to prevent the repeat of mass sexual assaults on women which occurred during last year’s New Year celebrations, allegedly carried out by North African migrants.

German comedian Jan Bohmermann was one of many Germans to criticise the police, equating the usage of the term ‘nafri’ to using the term ‘negro’ in reference to black people.  

But the head of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Deutschland party, Frauke Petry, tweeted in support of the police. “Nafris probably only wanted to join the church choir,” she said sarcastically. "They must have found some prey there."