Refugee shelter struggles with xenophobia in Germany

Germany calls to end clashes between right-wing militants, racists upon ongoing disturbances among protesters, police outside refugee shelter in town near Dresden

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A police officer stands outside a home for asylum seekers, Germany on Aug 21, 2015

Updated Aug 25, 2015

Germany's Minister of Domestic Affairs called on the ultra-right wing German protestors on Sunday to stop fighting with police, following the second night of  scuffles outside a refugee shelter in an eastern German town near Dresden.

On Saturday night, Reuters photographed an estimated 200 - mostly intoxicated - militants in Heidenau, throwing fireworks and bottles at police, some shouting “Heil Hitler," just a day after 31 military officers were harmed in protests against refugees.

During demonstrations against the influx of refugees in the country on Saturday, at least 31 German police officers were injured during the scuffle, with about 600 protesters, many hurling fireworks, bottles and stones, furious about the arrival of asylum seekers in Heidenau.

The military started to set up a security zone around the shelter on Sundayfearing recurrence, since the conditions remained shaky.

German politicians are disturbed with the financial and social effects on their country, as Europe struggles with the raid of refugees escaping war in their home countries such as Syria and Iraq.

The Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere condemned the attacks saying "at the same time as we see a wave of people wanting to help, we have a rise in hate, insults and violence against asylum seekers. That is obscene and unworthy of our country."

Many politicians are warned about the rising hostility towards foreigners, in the first half of the year alone, some 150 arson attacks along with various other attacks have been recorded on refugee shelters.

"Anyone who acts like that faces the full force of the law," Justice Minister Heiko Maas responded to the Heidenau riot, adding there was zero tolerance for xenophobia or racism.

Germany, which has relatively liberal asylum laws, expects the number of refugees to quadruple this year to 800,000. Chancellor Angela Merkel states the refugee problem as the biggest issue the EU faces today, even tougher than the Greek debt crisis.

More than one third of asylum seekers in Germany are from southeastern European countries such as Albania and Serbia.

Germany is frequently on headlines for racist and islamophobic incidents not only towards the current refugees, but also towards the Muslim German citizens along with other ethnic groups.

German authorities reported 297 attacks targeting mosques, community centers and houses that took place in the country between 2001 and 2014.

'No need for new EU summit on immigration'

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker dismissed calls for a new EU summit on immigration, saying member states should stop dragging their heels and implement existing agreements on the matter.

In an opinion piece published in France's Le Figaro and Germany's Die Welt on Monday, Juncker repeated his criticism of European governments failing to take migrants from Italy and Greece, in which tens of thousands arrived by boat within the last few months to escape poverty and war in their home countries.

"We don't need a new summit. Member states have to adopt the European measures and apply them to their territory," he wrote.

Juncker added that the European Union should draw up a uniform list of "safe countries" to which migrants could be returned to.

According to the report of a leading human rights organisation that blames world leaders’ neglect for the death of thousands of civilians, fleeing wars in the Middle East and Africa, millions of refugees have been condemned to a life of misery in the worst displacement crisis since the Second World War.  

The report stated about 3,500 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2014, with 1,865 dying this year alone.

The majority of those fleeing by boats are Syrian refugees displaced by the war.

TRTWorld and agencies