A Eritrean migrant accused of killing an 8-year-old boy in Frankfurt, Germany Monday had been featured in a campaign promoting successful integration, according to German authorities.
Habte Araya, a 40-year-old immigrant to Switzerland, was arrested after he allegedly shoved the boy and his mother onto tracks at Frankfurt’s central train station. The high-speed train pulled into the station moments later, instantly killing the boy.
His mother narrowly escaped the same fate by rolling onto a footpath between two tracks moments before the train arrived.
Authorities also accused Araya of attempting to push a 78-year-old woman onto the tracks. But she managed to stop herself from falling.
“According to witness reports, a 40-year-old man pushed the boy and his mother onto the track just as the ICE (train) was arriving,” police spokesperson Isabell Neumann said in a statement. “The mother, thank God, was able to save herself. Unfortunately, the eight-year-old boy was run over by the ICE. He suffered fatal injuries.”
Police said that Araya attempted to flee the scene, but witnesses chased him down and held him until authorities arrived. He faces a charge of murder and two charges of attempted murder. Police have so far been unable to determine a motive.
Habte Araya hailed as model immigrant before murder charge
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at a news conference Tuesday that Araya was previously considered “an example of successful integration.” He was even pictured in a 2017 Swiss ad campaign promoting the successful integration of migrants into European society.
In the 2017 brochure distributed by the Swiss Workers Relief Agency, Araya, a father of three, was quoted as saying he liked “almost everything about Switzerland.”
“When I first came communication was difficult because of the language. But that is no longer the case. I like the fact that everyone is helped here regardless of whether they are rich or poor,” Araya’s quotation reads. “I want a better and easier life for my children than I had.”
German Federal Police President Dieter Romann declared Araya was a “well integrated” migrant who had arrived legally in Switzerland in 2006 and was granted asylum in 2008.
Romann said that “since 2011, he has been holding the Swiss Settlement Permit Category C in Switzerland, which means well integrated” and was considered “exemplary from the point of view of the immigration and asylum authorities in Switzerland.”
Araya worked for several years as a building-fitter for the Swiss Workers Relief Agency. Coworkers described him as “reserved and a bit shy.”
However, Zurich prosecutors confirmed to German news magazine Focus that Araya had been in psychiatric treatment since 2019 and had not worked for a year.
Immigration debate rages
Germany, like much of Europe, has struggled to accommodate a mass influx of immigrants, most of them Muslims from the Middle East and Africa. Examples of crimes committed by migrants often dominate German headlines, triggering backlash against immigration and fueling the rise of right-wing political movements that challenge free movement across the European Union.
While the United States faces a more modest immigration crisis on its southern border, debate has raged over how to best handle migrants who often come to the country illegally in search of a better life. Conservatives have argued that mass illegal migration is a threat to national security, while many on the left accuse the current administration of subjecting migrants to inhumane treatment and argue for more permissive immigration laws.