How Berlin’s Arabic-origin crime clans are targeting refugees
Many of Berlin crime organizations known as “clans” were started by refugees of the Lebanon war in the 1980s, mostly Arabic and Kurdish-origin extended-family networks that control a huge chunk of the city’s drug trade, prostitution, and protection. These gangs work alongside or in competition with several homegrown, Eastern European, and Asian gangs, but their cultural origins and often their language give them a unique edge in exploiting the wave of refugees from the Middle East over the past years. Now police are warning that these clans are recruiting new members from the more than 1 million asylum seekers who landed in Germany since 2015, around half of whom are from Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan. These recruits, mostly single young men, start at the bottom and are “made to do the dirty work,” according to one under-cover police investigator. These issues have stoked frustration with law enforcement for allowing parallel crime societies to spring up in an otherwise low-crime country, contributed to growing anti-immigration attitudes, and stoked other tensions in the city and across the country. Law enforcement has increased their efforts against the “clans,” raiding businesses and properties and conducting other efforts to reduce the ease with which the groups had been operating.