Two human rights groups on Wednesday issued guidelines for visitors to Germany during the World Cup about how to avoid falling victim to racist violence and how to find help if they do.
German and Brazilian players with a banner against racism last year
"Racist attacks are a reality in Germany," the Africa Council, a group for expatriates, said in a statement posted on the Internet in which it warned visitors to be particularly careful in the former communist east.
"The likelihood of falling victim to racist attack is considerably higher in east Germany and parts of east Berlin than in west Germany ... we therefore urge visitors to be especially careful," the group said.
It released the controversial guidelines in cooperation with the International League for Human Rights in the wake of a string of apparently race-related violent attacks in Germany.
Their advice includes carrying a mobile phone whenever possible, traveling in groups if possible, and directions on how to deal with the police or to ask bystanders for help in case of attack.
Some members of the Africa Council, an umbrella group of
immigrant associations, later distanced themselves from the
guidelines. These were released in cooperation with the
International League for Human Rights in the wake of a string of apparently race-related violent attacks in Germany.
The Africa Council has in recent weeks contributed to a heated debate about whether Germany was a facing an upsurge in racism, particularly in the east of the country, and how this could effect its hard-won reputation for tolerance as it hosts the World Cup.
"We are satisfied with the debate we roused. We wanted to break the silence about a racist terror of which everybody is aware but nobody wants to talk about," the vice-president of the International League for Human Rights, Yonas Endrias, told journalists on Wednesday.
Ermyas M. was attacked in Potsdam
In April, an engineer of Ethiopian origin was beaten into a coma in Potsdam, outside Berlin, and in May a politician of Turkish origin was beaten and slashed with a broken bottle in a suburb of Berlin known as a neo-Nazi stronghold.
The government released a report a few days later which showed that the number of violent crimes attributed to the far-right had risen by 23 percent in 2005 while the premier of the state surrounding Berlin conceded that right-wing racism was a problem.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to calm the waters, vowing that racist offenders will meet with the full force of the law and pleading with foreigners not to believe that Germans are generally xenophobic.
Demonstration after the Potsdam attack, thought to be racially motivated
"Unfortunately we have had a few racist attacks which must absolutely be condemned," she said last week.
"But the vast majority of Germans are not xenophobic."
A 24-hour hotline has been set up for foreign fans who are threatened with or have been the victims of a racist attack. The "World Cup Racism Help Line" offers advice in six languages and will be activated on Thursday. Besides immediate support and assistance, hotline counselors will provide advice on dealing with German police and doctors.
"We hope that we don't get a single call," said hot line organizer Simplice Freeman, who was born in Cameroon. "But we fear we'll see multiple attacks, especially on non-white people during the World Cup." For English speakers, the hotline number from inside Germany is (0170) 6 09 42 41.