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Ministers alarmed by anti-refugee violence

December 27, 2015

Attacks on refugee shelters in Germany continued over the Christmas holiday period. Interior ministers are concerned about the growing number of xenophobic attacks along with the rise of the right-wing Scene.

Deutschland Brandanschlag an Asylbewerberheim in Weissach
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/SDMG/Friebe

An arson attack on a refugee center under construction in Schwäbisch Gmuend in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg on Christmas Day, coupled with an arson attack on two homes housing immigrant families in Wallerstein in Bavaria a day earlier, are just recent examples of the anti-immigrant sentiment seen in Germany.

The number of anti-immigrant attacks has risen sharply this year. Up until mid-December, the Interior Ministry reported 850 attacks on refugee shelters, more than four times the number recorded in 2014.

Schwäbisch Gmünd Brand in Flüchtlingsunterkunft,
The Schwäbisch Gmünd refugee center was supposed to house 120 migrantsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/SDMG/Friebe

In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the number of attacks on refugee housing increased six-fold to 187, compared to 2014 statistics.

A figure NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger says he is "deeply ashamed" of.

At the same time, the number of violent, xenophobic attacks on individuals across the country has risen. In the past five years, the number of people assaulted has more than doubled.

According to figures made public by the Federal Interior Ministry, at least one person every day this year has become a victim of xenophobic violence in Germany. Up to and including September the number of reported violent attacks reached 389.

Ralf Jäger Innenminister NRW SPD
NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger says he is 'deeply ashamed' of the number of attacks on refugeesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F.Gambarini

Right-wing extremism

Over the past 10 years, Germany has seen a "subtle increase in radicalization" within the right-wing camp, but also among left-wing extremists and violent soccer fans, said Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's Interior Minister Lorenz Caffier.

"The scene is militant," Caffier added. "The number of events and demonstrations that incite hatred and anger towards refugees has increased significantly."

It is not just physical demonstrations where people gather to show their hatred, but online incidents have also increased, Reinhold Gall, Baden-Würrtemberg's interior minister said.

'Hunting for votes'

A party that has profited from the hostility towards migrants is the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The party, which vehemently criticizes Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcoming stance towards refugees, currently has 6-10 percent support in the opinion polls.

In comments published Sunday by publications oft he "Funke-Mediengruppe," Social Democratic Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held right-wing parties partly responsible for attacks on asylum seekers.

"The strong rise of right-wing violence in the Germany shows how dangerous it is to use the topic of refugees to go hunting for votes," Steinmeier said.

The AfD, founded in 2013 as a eurosceptic party but which has adopted an increasingly anti-immigration stance, currently has no seats in the German parliament. It has condemned the use of violence against migrants.

jlw/se (BMI, dpa, Reuters)