Reuters International

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a government declaration on the consequences of the Brexit vote at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The German parliament on Thursday unanimously approved tougher laws making any form of non-consensual sexual contact a crime, seeking to reassure a public shaken by mass attacks on women on New Year's Eve that were largely blamed on migrants.

The measures, dubbed "nein heisst nein" or "no means no" by the German media, aim to close loopholes that made it difficult to punish offenders if proof was lacking that they had used violence against their victims or when victims did not resist.

Under the new rules, all forms of non-consensual sexual contact will be punishable, regardless of the circumstances.

All 601 lawmakers participating in the debate voted in favour of the new measures.

In Cologne at New Year, hundreds of women said they were groped, attacked and robbed outside the train station. Police said the suspects were mainly of North African or Arab appearance.

The police chief was forced to resign over the incident, which hardened public opinion against the government's decision to allow in more than one million migrants last year, mostly people fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Women's rights activists launched the "no means no" awareness campaign after the Cologne attacks, which prompted a debate about the challenge to integrate the new arrivals.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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