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Fake news: 'Mass sexual assault' by refugees at New Year in Germany

Fears over the influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has led to the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany
The UK's Daily Express had the story on its platforms until shortly after the Bild apology (screengrab)

Reports of a mass sexual assault by refugees in Frankfurt on New Years Eve were fabricated according to German police.

The right-wing newspaper Bild reported last week that 900 drunk refugees had been involved in the mass sex attack and quoted a number of witnesses and victims' testimony.

“I can be happy that I wore sheer tights. They [the migrants] grabbed me under the skirt, between my legs, my breasts, everywhere," one alleged victim, Irina, was quoted as saying.

READ: Baked swans, drowning refugees and other media myths

Another witness, a local pub owner, said that his pub had been "full with a group of around 50 Arabs."

"They did not speak German, drank our guests’ drink and danced towards them. The women asked me for help because they were being attacked. The mood changed completely.”

The quotes were also used in the right-wing British tabloid Daily Express.

Police dismiss story

However, on Wednesday German police said that the accusations were “without foundation” and that they were investigating those who had made the alleged comments.

"The interrogations of the witnesses, guests, and staff have created considerable doubts about the portrayal of events," the police told the press.

"A person allegedly affected by the actions was not in the city at all when the crime occurred."

Following this, Bild removed the story from their website and their online editor-in-chief apologised for running it:

However, the Daily Express still carried the story online at the time of this article's publication. It was eventually replaced with a version that mentioned the Bild apology.

Rise of anti-refugee sentiment

Fears over the influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has led to the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany and seen a rise in poll numbers for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

However, the AfD's popularity took a knock after comments by the party's Thuringia state chairman in which he referred to the Berlin Holocaust Memorial as a "monument of shame", leading to his expulsion

The party, which was originally founded in 2013 on an anti-euro platform, shifted geared to rail against immigrants after 2015's mass influx of refugees from Syria.

It is setting its sights on winning its first seats in national parliament in general elections on 24 September.