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German government condemns anti-refugee clashes

August 22, 2015

The German government has condemned the violence that broke out ahead of the arrival of asylum seekers at a temporary shelter in the east of the country. Several people were injured in scuffles with police.

Deutschland Sachsen Ausschreitungen vor Asylunterkunft in Heidenau
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Burgi

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas issued a statement on Saturday in which he condemned the violence that broke out at an anti-refugee demonstration in the town of Heidenau, near the eastern city of Dresden late on Friday.

"We must never tolerate people in our country being threatened or attacked. We must pursue this with the full force of the rule of law," Maas said, also posting a similarly worded tweet. "There can be no tolerance for xenophobia or racism," he added.

"Sometimes you don't want to be a foreigner in our country. But neither do you want to be a German," tweeted the deputy foreign minister, Michael Roth. "I am ashamed of these racists in Heidenau," he added.

Their statements came hours after police in Heidenau had brought the situation under control and the first bus carrying refugees was escorted by police to the asylum seekers' temporary accommodation, a former DIY store.

Two more buses arrived on Saturday morning, bringing the number of refugees to have arrived in the shelter at 93. More buses were expected to arrive over the weekend, to bring the number of refugees being housed their to around 250.

Protest initially peaceful

Friday's demonstration, began as a peaceful protest against the arrival of the refugees in Heidenau. However, according to regional public broadcaster MDR, in the evening the situation escalated, with some demonstrators, many supporters of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) attempting to block the road the buses were expected to use.

The clashes broke out when police moved in to clear the blockade with some protesters pelting them with rocks, bottles and firecrackers. Police used tear gas in an effort to bring the situation under control, and a number of arrests were made.

A spokesman for the German Red Cross, which was accompanying the refugees on their way to the shelter, said its workers had treated 10 people for injuries, mainly police officers.

Attacks on refugee shelters 'unworthy of our country'

There have been a number of attacks on shelters for asylum seekers in recent months, but the government has repeatedly spoken out against such actions.

In a feature interview broadcast by public broadcaster ZDF last Sunday, Merkel condemned such attacks as "unworthy of our country."

Despite the biggest influx of migrants since World War II, Merkel has insisted that Germany can cope.

Earlier in the week, her interior minister, Thomas De Maiziere also said he believed Germany could in the short term cope with the 800,000 people expected to apply for asylum in Germany by the end of this year. At the same time, though, he indicated that such figures were not sustainable.

pfd/ng (dpa, EPD, AP, AFP, Reuters)