Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday denounced violence aimed at an asylum centre in a small east German town as “repulsive,” following two consecutive nights of anti-refugee riots.
The newly opened refugee shelter in Heideneau near Dresden came under attack at the weekend from protestors who were in part drawn from the nation’s extreme right and neo-Nazi movements.
“It’s repulsive how right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis try to use a refugee centre to spread their message of hate. And it is shameful how people, even families with children, join in and lend their support to these horrific events,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
There is no justification for violence, Seibert said, adding that the protests do not reflect Germany’s values.
“Germany will not allow refugees, whose difficult situation everyone should be thoroughly aware of, to be on the receiving end of hateful slogans or threats from drunken loudmouths,” Seibert said.
Early Saturday, police used tear gas to disperse several hundred right-wing extremists who blocked a road leading to a hardware store that had been revamped to serve as a temporary housing facility for up to 600 refugees, the first of whom began moving in at the weekend.
The violence quickly broke out after a peaceful demonstration organized by the extreme right wing National Democratic Party (NPD) devolved into a brawl that saw several hundred ultra-nationalist protesters throwing stones, bottles and firecrackers at police.
Dressed in black and many with their faces covered, about 250 members of Germany’s radical left scene gathered outside the home on Sunday evening declaring support for the refugees and chanting anti-Nazi slogans.
Police said they have stepped up security at the refugee shelter and, for the first time, deployed water cannon should they need to disperse protesters.
On Monday, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel visited the Heidenau centre where more than 30 police were injured in clashes with the demonstrators.
“The people spreading this violence must not be given a millimetre of space,” said Gabriel, who heads up the Social Democrats, the junior member of Merkel’s coalition.
The riots in Heidenau came in the wake of a series of protests and arson attacks on refugee accommodation principally in Germany’s former communist east.
Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are to meet Monday for talks on Europe’s deepening refugee crisis.
Their meeting forms part of their efforts to draw up a European Union-wide response to the crisis that has engulfed Europe in recent months, triggered in part by conflict in the Middle East, notably in Syria and Afghanistan.
Germany said it expects a total of 800,000 refugees – almost 1 per cent of the country’s present population – to head to the nation this year, which is the biggest influx since the end of the Second World War.
While Germany has already taken the largest number of refugees in the EU, the scale of the number of new arrivals this year is placing enormous strains on the nation’s public administration dealing with the asylum seekers and fueling political tensions.
Heidenau’s mayor, Juergen Opitz, called on Merkel to also visit the scene of the riots. “I hope … to welcome Mrs Merkel here no later than the day after tomorrow,” he told reporters.
Seibert said on Friday that Merkel would travel Tuesday to Marxloh, a poverty-blighted neighbourhood of the western industrial city of Duisburg where and Kurdish immigrants have settled in large numbers and allegedly formed ghettos.
Source : GNA/newsghana.com.gh