Fears that anti-immigrant fervour is growing in Germany have been given fresh impetus by security experts who have warned the country to brace itself for a rise in xenophobic attacks as a growing number of protesters turn to violence to vent their anger over Europe’s refugee crisis.
A confidential report by the Federal Criminal Office (BKA) that has been leaked to German media said the far-right scene had been spurred on by the continuing influx of refugees to Germany and experts believed that what it referred to as the group’s sense of “agitation” towards the government’s asylum policy was set to intensify. It warned that asylum seekers, volunteers and politicians were under particular threat.
While the far right is usually considered to consist of disparate groups who operate heterogeneously, many have found ideological consensus in the refugee crisis, according to the assessment, as pressure increases on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to get a grip on the situation.
The report came to light as police in northern Bavaria said on Thursday they had smashed a far-right group in Bamberg who had planned to carry out a terrorist attack on an asylum seekers’ home in the town on 31 October.
Three people in possession of kilograms of pyrotechnic explosives imported from eastern Europe and a range of weapons were arrested by police after a raid involving 90 officers in the early hours; 13 more were questioned. The group had intended to attack a home for migrants awaiting deportation, using explosives containing steel balls, which a spokesman said were intended to cause maximum harm.
Thousands of refugees and migrants have been arriving in Germany every day since the summer, and the country is expected to receive up to 1.5 million asylum seekers by the end of this year.
The BKA’s warning comes just days after the racially motivated attempt on the life on Cologne’s mayoral candidate Henriette Reker. She was knifed on Saturday by a 44-year old man with a far-right past who said he was acting to protect the country from foreigners. Reker, who made support for refugees central to her campaign, was elected mayor the following day, but has been unable to assume the post because she is still being treated in hospital.
The report also follows a sharpening in the far-right tone at rallies by the anti-immigrant movement Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident, where on Monday night a speaker issued a veiled appeal for concentration camps to be put into operation again. The previous week, campaigners carried a mock gallows with a noose labelled for Merkel.
According to the BKA, people responsible for running asylum seekers’ homes, politicians who support Merkel’s open door asylum policy and members of the public who are volunteering in their thousands to help refugees, are all considered to be in the sights of what it called “offenders motivated by xenophobia”.
The report follows a wave of raciallymotivated incidents against asylum seekers’ homes, including scores of arson attacks. BKA analysts say the number of attacks on refugee homes is increasing with the majority being carried out on homes that are already inhabited, or buildings that are in the process of being converted. Typically, as well as arson, offenders are using weapons such as catapults with steel ball bearings, wooden clubs and butyric acid.
In the first three quarters of this year across Germany, there were a total of 461 attacks believed to have been driven by xenophobic motives, which is already double the number committed in the whole of last year.
The identity of almost half the attackers is known to police. More than a quarter were carried out by people from the immediate neighbourhood. Most of the attackers are males, aged between 20 and 25, three-quarters of whom had no far-right background and only seldom did they carry out attacks under the influence of alcohol.
There is no evidence to suggest the violence is being steered by far-right political parties, the BKA said, adding that in the light of rising refugee numbers and the increase in living facilities for them “the opportunity to commit such crimes will increase considerably”.
Meanwhile, police have said they are investigating whether they can press charges for hate crime against the Turkish-German writer Akif Pirincci, who in a speech about the refugee crisis at a 15,000-strong rally in Dresden said it was “unfortunate that the concentration camps are no longer in operation”.
In a separate incident, a 31-year-old from Kitzingen in southern Germany has been prosecuted and is awaiting a prison sentence after calling in a Facebook posting for Merkel and her supporters to be “stood against a wall, court-martialled and shot for treason against the German people”.
The interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, blamed Pegida for inciting hatred, saying its organisers had by now been outed as rightwing extremists. On national television he called on Germans to “stay clear of those that are injected this hate, this poison into our country”.
Reacting to the BKA report, he told the Passauer Neue Presse: “We can’t yet speak of rightwing terrorism, but the threat is there and we are paying attention to it.”
Source: The Guardian