Germany: Planned residential hotels for refugees set ablaze, swastika graffiti nearby
Not far from the town of Nuremberg during the night of 11 December and early morning hours of 12 December, residential hotels intended to house refugees went up in flames. According to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, there are suspicions that they were deliberately set on fire.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, someone spray-painted a swastika and other xenophobic symbols on a wall. One firefighter was slightly injured responding to the blaze.
Germany has been grappling in recent weeks with a growing wave of xenophobia. The three buildings in the village of Vorra were supposed to have served as asylum shelters for immigrants.
German counter-intelligence is also investigating the case. "There are indications that this was arson," police spokesperson Robert Sandmann said yesterday.
The swastika and other xenophobic symbols were spray-painted on a neighboring building. Detectives are searching for clues and eyewitnesses, but police have nothing in hand for now.
The Bavarian Interior Minister has already ordered security to be beefed up at other asylum facilities in the country. The blaze, which was set last Thursday at 22:45 CET, broke out in an abandoned pub, a barn, and an abandoned residential building.
The buildings had all been renovated and the Regional Government had decided they should serve as accommodation for refugees. Roughly 150 firefighters intervened, one of whom suffered slight injury.
The total damages, according to police, come to approximately EUR 700 000 and the destroyed buildings are now unfit for occupation. Should the motive of hatred against immigrants be confirmed, the Federal Government will condemn it in the strongest possible terms, cabinet spokesperson Christiane Wirtz said the day after the attack.
Wirtz also said Chancellor Merkel believes there is no place in Germany for anti-Semitism, hatred of foreigners, racism or right-wing extremism. In recent weeks the country has been grappling with a growing wave of xenophobic sentiment.
An organization called Pegida, a German-language acronym for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamicization of the West", held a demonstration on 8 December in several towns throughout Germany, including in Dresden, where as many as 10 000 people gathered. About 9 000 residents there turned out against the neo-Nazi demonstration, and on 14 December in Cologne there was a powerful action against racism and xenophobia attended by as many as 15 000 people.
Speaking at a joint conference in Cologne, Interior Ministers of the various German states warned of a campaign to incite people against foreigners and Islam. Chancellor Merkel joined their afternoon declaration through her spokesperson.
Nevertheless, German Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said there is a need to take demonstrators' concerns about an influx of asylum-seekers seriously. Germany is now facing a sharp rise in the number of asylum-seekers.
In large part this is a consequence of the war in Syria, but it is also related to other conflicts around the globe. According to preliminary statistical data, 200 000 people have already sought asylum in Germany this year.
Germany last had to address a rise in xenophobic sentiment at the start of the 1990s. Seven people perished in arson attacks in the northwestern towns of Mölln and Solingen back then.
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