Fire destroys another refugee home in Germany
A refugee home has caught fire in Germany, raising concerns over anti-migrant attacks. There have been more than 200 similar attacks this year. Chancellor Merkel faces tough questions during her visit to a problematic immigrant neighborhood in the country’s west.
Right-wing violence and perceived problems due to immigration are expected to be the main themes of Merkel’s meeting with citizens in Duisburg, a city in western Germany , which comes in the wake of several attacks on refugee shelters.
On Tuesday, a school sports hall converted into an emergency refugee shelter caught fire in the eastern town of Nauen, located just east of Berlin. The hall had been redesigned to house around 130 asylum seekers, who were awaiting transfer to permanent housing locations.
Police in nearby Potsdam said that the fire spread soon after it was discovered, leading them to believe the incident may have been planned. There were however no hints of any right-wing extremist activity as yet, and there was also a high possibility of a technical fault. No one was injured in the blaze.
Little pockets of fire around the building prevented any police investigations, but officials said they would be looking for clues immediately after firefighters had declared the site to be safe.
Rallies against migrants
Residents of Nauen had recently taken to demonstrating against the migrants’ homes in their town. Police also confirmed that neo-Nazis had participated in rallies protesting refugee homes in their city.
The fire in Nauen is the most recent in a series of attacks on refugee homes in Germany. A similar fire took place at an asylum home in southwestern Germany in the early hours of Monday morning, with its cause also unknown as yet.
The most notorious such incident took place in the eastern city of Heidenau [13 km from Dresden], where police clashed with anti-migrant protestors protesting in front of a refugee home in the last days. Several police officers were injured in the incident.
Condemning the violence, Merkel said it was “repulsive, the way in which right-wing extremists and Neo Nazis were trying to spread their hollow messages.” She would visit Heidenau on Wednesday and speak to refugees, helpers and security officials about the situation, her spokesman Steffen Seibert told journalists.
Merkel faces test in Marxloh
In the wake of these incidents, Chancellor Merkel was expected to face some tough questions during her visit to a so-called “No-go area” called Marxloh in the western city of Duisburg. She was to speak with representatives of the church, mosques and members of the local business and academic community.
Marxloh, considered one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in all of Germany, has a very high crime rate. More than 16 percent of its population is unemployed. Of the 19,000 residents, more than 50 percent are of foreign origin. Last week, members of an Arabic group clashed with police, who have repeatedly warned of Marxloh being a “lawless” place, with criminal family gangs and rocker bands dominating the area.
* Acts of intolerance tarnish efforts to welcome migrants in Germany, Globe and Mail, Aug 26, 2015
* Angela Merkel to visit asylum shelter after wave of far-right attacks, by Kate Connolly, The Guardian, Aug 25, 2015
… There has been growing pressure on Merkel to take a more public stand against the protests.
… Dietmar Woike, prime minister of the state of Brandenburg, where Nauen is located, condemned the attack and appealed to citizens to “distance yourself from the racist mob”. He called the recent attacks “shameful and unworthy of Germany”.
… Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag, described the violence as “embarrassing for our country”. There have been more than 200 similar attacks this year.
* In Heidenau, bracing for more anti-refugee protests, Deutsche Welle, Aug 24, 2015
Heidenau has become the latest flashpoint for anti-asylum seeker violence in the eastern German state of Saxony. Ben Knight reports as the small town braces itself for a fourth night of far-right protests…
* German neo-Nazi protesters clash with police at new migrant shelter, by Kate Connolly, The Guardian, Aug 23, 2015
… The two consecutive nights of violence over the weekend came at the end of a week in which the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said Germany could expect to receive as many as 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015, the biggest influx since the second world war.