by Daily Sabah with Agencies
Jul 28, 2015 12:00 am
On Monday an explosion damaged the car of a German pro-refugee left-wing politician, Michael Richter, who was working in support of refugees in a suburb of Dresden, a German city that has witnessed many anti-immigrant demonstrations. The incident comes amid increasing tensions in the area and elsewhere in Germany following a growing influx of refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and also from the Balkans.
Police said it was not yet clear what caused the explosion but that detectives were treating it as intentional. Richter told Anadolu Agency that he believed neo-Nazis were behind the suspected bomb attack. "Threats have now become reality. They are trying to scare me, but I will not give up," Richter, the 39-year-old politician who leads the Left Party group at city hall, said. He added that far-right groups had threatened him numerous times in the past weeks due to his campaigning for refugees.
"The police have started a criminal investigation with the suspicion that someone caused a bomb explosion," police spokeswoman Ilka Rosenkranz said in a written statement. Police said that an explosion targeted Richter's car at 12:45 a.m. local time and caused damage to the car's body. Another nearby car was also damaged in the incident.
In the first half of 2015, Germany has seen almost as many far-right crimes against refugee accommodations as in all of 2014, according to the German Federal Ministry of the Interior. There have been 202 attacks against asylum seekers in the first six months of 2015, according to police records. There were 162 such attacks in 2014 and 58 attacks in 2013. Incidents have been reported in recent weeks in several regions, primarily vandalism against new refugee homes being built. The attacks also created tension between those who are against the arrival of refugees and those who support them.
In Freital, there were recent protests against a new asylum home and clashes with pro-refugee activists. Antje Feiks, a senior official in the regional branch of the Left Party, suggested that the far-right Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) movement, which has staged regular rallies in Dresden, has stirred up more violent anti-immigrant sentiment in the area, even though its support has waned. The rallies "have fueled a racist sentiment in which people are motivated and legitimized to use violence," she said.
On Sunday, vandals broke half a dozen windows in a hotel in another part of Dresden that is being converted to house refugees starting this week, and on Friday supporters of a far-right party clashed with backers of a new camp for refugees in the city. On Saturday night, a refugee family awoke to find a fire in their apartment in the eastern state of Brandenburg after someone had doused a newspaper in fire accelerant and threw it at the apartment's front door. The incidents prompted Rainer Wendt, the head of the German Police Union, to call for a ban on demonstrations within a kilometer of centers housing refugees. "People who flee persecution have the right not to look into the faces of those throwing stones," Wendt told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper.
The Defence Ministry has already made eight barracks available, housing about 3,500 people, and is considering what further steps it could take, a ministry spokesman said. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen promised Monday "maximum goodwill" in helping to meet the housing needs of the refugees.
According to UNHCR, EU countries have received an estimated total of 436,000 asylum applications in 2014 with Germany receiving the most. About 400,000 people are expected to apply for asylum in the country by the end of 2015. Most arrivals came from Syria, Serbia, Albania, Iraq and Afghanistan. The budgets of many German states and regional governments are under pressure as they try to meet the high cost of accommodating the large numbers of asylum seekers in the nation.The EU came under fire last week for failing to agree on how to distribute all 40,000 migrants from overstretched Italy and Greece. They agreed to start relocating a little over 32,000 migrants among the EU's 28 members in October, falling around 8,000 short of the target agreed to by EU leaders at a summit in June.