But many abandoned their posts and at least one was so drunk he couldn’t work.
A total of 59 asylum seekers were stationed on bridges across the Rhine to assist in a mammoth security operation aimed at stopping any trouble.
Last year mobs of mostly North African men sexually assaulted and robbed hundreds of women in and around the city’s main railway station as police totally lost control of the situation.
On September 7, 2015 authorities made the decision to give some refugees a role in the policing of celebrations – a little known fact which has only just emerged.
The security firm Westturm was in charge of hiring the migrants who were told to have a “basic mastery of the German language and to bring along warm clothing”.
Bild published a list of those who were hired showing most came from North Africa, Syria and Afghanistan.
They were paid £4.25 (€5) which is little more than half of the statutory minumum wage in Germany.
But the city of Cologne was billed three times as much by the security agency which recruited them.
The calibre of personnel caused concern long before the fateful night.
A former senior executive of Westturm told Bild: “Our employees collected the refugees in three initial reception centres in Ratingen and brought them in minibuses to the bridges where they were stationed.
“We knew not at all exactly who these people were. They got a security vest and some radios.”
Cologne authorities are taking no chances this year and are flooding the city with 1,500 police – ten times the number on duty in 2015 – to stop a repeat of the disgraceful scenes.
Police are particularly worried about the Hohenzollern railway bridge over the Rhine which leads into the station.
There were fears last year that the mass numbers of people crossing it could have led to a crushing incident and trains had to be cancelled because of the number of people pouring across it.
Refugees were stationed on it to assist in crowd control.
Twenty were also assigned to the Zoo Bridge and others were stationed on the Deutzer and Severnin bridges.
But things quickly began to go awry.
Five of the 20 refugees on the Zoo Bridge vanished from their posts almost immediately – but time sheets of the Westturm firm showed the city was billed five hours for each of them.
On the Deutzer bridge a guard called Arif had to quit his post because he was drunk and his replacement, a man called Süyleman, left after two hours work.
On the Hohenzollern Bridge refugee Kemal lost his radio and then walked off the job almost immediately after starting his shift.
A spokesman for Cologne city council said it had not had any problem with the Westturm company in the past.