The world heard a great deal about the sexual harassment of German women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve by men who turned out in many cases to be of Middle Eastern or North African origin, including a few who were reportedly asylum-seekers. These despicable attacks were totally inexcusable, and one hopes and trusts that the perpetrators with be appropriately punished.

The German authorities clearly made inadequate preparations to prevent these attacks, but in keeping with their country's efficient law enforcement tradition, they were not slow to respond.

However, there is another group of women in Europe who are also at risk of sexual harassment, and whom we are hearing a good deal less about. These are mainly Syrian and Iraqi refugee women trapped in squalid, unsafe refugee camps in Europe, whose governments are doing little or nothing to protect them.

A January 18 report in reprinted in the Huffington Post states that, according to Amnesty International, women who have arrived in Europe from Syria and Iraq live in constant fear for their safety. Among other things, they have been forced to sleep along side hundreds of single men and to use showers and bathrooms that are not segregated by sex.

The news story makes clear that it is not only male refugees who are reportedly harassing the women, but also camp security guards, local law enforcement officers and smugglers. To give just one example, a Syrian woman stated that she saw police in Hungary attack another refugee woman for asking them to let her go.

The report quotes an Amnesty International official, Tirana Hassan, as stating that European governments need to "step up their game" to protect the refugee women, who comprise about half of all the refugees, and more than half of whom are under 18.

The report is available at:

In an era in which Mexican immigrants to the US are stigmatized as "criminals" and "rapists" and Muslim immigrants are demonized as terrorists, while attacks on European women by Middle Eastern men make headlines all over the world, it is instructive to remember that Syrian and Iraqi refugee woman are also human beings who are entitled to protection against violence and harassment, and that their attackers are not necessarily from North Africa or the Middle East.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants of many different nationalities and ethnic/religious backgrounds obtain work visas and green cards.

Roger's email address is