Neo-Nazis burn asylum homes, Merkel condemns racism

Buildings in a Bavarian town being turned into refuges for asylum-seekers were set on fire and daubed with swastikas. Merkel condemned all such crimes

Neo-Nazis burn asylum homes, Merkel condemns racism

World Bulletin/News Desk

The German government has condemned a "xenophobic" attack on three buildings housing refugees in the southeastern German town of Vorra, which burned down in what police suspect was an arson attack by neo-Nazis.  

Fire tore through the buildings sited in different parts of the town, 50 kilometers (32 miles) northeast of the city of Nuremberg, which had been recently renovated to house asylum seekers.

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned a series of anti-Muslim demonstrations centred on the eastern city of Dresden, saying via an aide on Friday that there was "no place in Germany" for hatred of Muslims or any other religious or racial group.

"In the name of the government and the chancellor I can say quite clearly that there is no place in Germany for religious hatred, no matter which religion people belong to," said the chancellor's spokeswoman, Christiane Wirtz.

"There is no place for Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or any form of xenophobia or racism," she said of the growing Monday evening marches in Dresden under the motto PEGIDA, standing for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West".

Germany has witnessed a rise in anti-Islam and anti-immigration sentiments in recent months, raising worries among politicians.

Joachim Herrmann, Interior Minister of the state of Bavaria, told public radio BR on Friday that "it was obviously an arson attack." 

"The swastikas on the wall lead to the suspicion that this might be related with right-wing extremist perpetrators," he said.

Rise in attacks

Recently formed right-wing and anti-Islam platforms like PEDISA and HOGESA have gathered thousands in protests organized in cities Dresden, Hannover and Cologne.

The latest PEGIDA march on Monday drew up to 10,000 people and almost as many counter-demonstrators. The organisers, who began two months ago with a few hundred people, say they are not against immigrants but want to protest against "Islamic extremism and the influx of asylum-seekers."

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said not all the marchers are racists and they include some who are "expressing their fears about the challenges of the times".

Dresden is the site of Germany's biggest annual neo-Nazi march on the anniversary of the World War Two bombings.

According to a report by the German Federal Police Office, or BKA, there have been at least 86 attacks on refugee houses this year up to September, greater than the total number of attacks in 2012 and 2013.

A total of 18.2 percent of Germans support the prohibition of immigration of Muslims to Germany, according to a study by the German think-tank Friedrich Ebert Foundation conducted among 1,915 people aged between 16 and 95 between June and September.   

A total of 35,729 Syrians have applied for asylum in Germany in the past 11 months.

After Syria, the main countries of origin of asylum seekers were Serbia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo and Somalia.

Majority of the asylum seekers and their families are accommodated in refugee centers or public houses managed by the municipalities and communities.

Public expressions of anti-immigrant sentiment are largely taboo in mainstream German politics because of the Nazis' mass-murder of Jews and other groups in the Holocaust. Merkel argues that Germany needs immigrants to avoid demographic crisis.

German officials are alarmed at the rise in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment. This year has seen right-wingers join forces with soccer hooligans against Muslims and a rise in attacks on Jews linked to the Middle East crisis.

A backlash is being felt: this week Merkel's conservatives debated banning the burka, the full body covering worn by some Muslim women, and her Bavarian allies had to drop a proposal to oblige immigrants to speak German at home.

Earlier this week, the head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, urged politicians to speak out to avoid giving the impression that racism had "become respectable".

Last Mod: 12 Aralık 2014, 17:20
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