The arson attack on accommodation planned for asylum seekers is the latest escalation in tensions in the small town of Tröglitz. Its residents and neo-Nazis have been demonstrating against the planned housing of 40 refugees there for months. The mayor has resigned after receiving death threats. But, extreme as it is, the conflict over the refugee housing in Tröglitz isn’t unique.
The number of people seeking asylum in Germany has increased significantly in recent years. Wars such as those in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing more and more people to leave their homes. Some 100,000 asylum applications were filed in 2013 - 70% more than last year. Germany has managed to deal with large numbers of refugees before, such as during the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. Nevertheless, politicians from different parties are trying to exploit the issue. The neo-Nazi NPD, which has been in decline for some time, is often at the forefront of protests against plans to build homes for refugees.
Antipathy towards asylum seekers often turns into violence, a trend that has also increased in recent years. The police say they registered some 150 attacks on refugee homes in Germany last year. Many fear a return to the pogrom-like riots of the early 1990s.
But asylum seekers are not just meeting with rejection - far from it. Throughout Germany, countless groups support refugees upon their arrival and many initiatives are working to combat xenophobia. In Tröglitz too, some citizens are unhappy that their village has been labeled xenophobic and are committed to welcoming the newcomers. But Mayor Markus Nierth resigned at the beginning of March after right-wing extremists threatened him and his family over the asylum seekers. District chief executive Götz Ulrich also received death threats in the wake of the fire.
Is Tröglitz just an extreme individual case or there is a risk of escalation in other places too? What can society do to avoid situations similar to that in Tröglitz? What responsibility does the EU's policy on refugees bear for the current tensions?
Tell us what you think: quadriga(at)dw.de
Mekonnen Mesghena – was born in Eritrea and studied Political Science and Journalism. When he came to Germany in 1988 he did a traineeship at Westdeutschen Rundfunk radio station in Cologne. He went on to work for a number of newspapers. In 1990 he returned to Eritrea where he helped restructure a radio station known as "Voice of the Eritrean Masses". Today he works for the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Berlin where he heads the Department of Migration and Diversity and is involved in media policy.
Christian Jakob – is an editor of the German newspaper taz and responsible for the front page topics. Previously, he worked in the taz´ office in Bremen and carried out some practices in the newspaper La Jornada of Mexico City. His reporting focuses on the issues of migration and North-South relations. In his first book “Ethnic Cleansing” he describes the expulsion of the lower class in New Orleans after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. He has also been part of the publication ”Europe sealed tight.''
Judy Dempsey – after training as a journalist in Ireland, Ms Dempsey embarked on an international career: From the 1980s to early 1990s she reported from Eastern Europe. In 1996 she took over the Financial Times' bureau in Jerusalem where she remained until 2001. Judy Dempsey has won numerous awards for her work, including the Anglo-German Prize and the Foreign Press Association Award. She was a Columnist for the International Herald Tribune and works now as a Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe and editor-in-chief of Strategic Europe.