Crowd celebrated as home for asylum-seekers burned
Onlookers celebrated as a suspected arson fire damaged a former hotel being converted into a refugee home in eastern Germany, police said yesterday, raising concerns about violence toward migrants in a nation that registered more than a million asylum-seekers last year.
The blaze in the roof of the building in Bautzen, in the eastern state of Saxony, broke out overnight. Police said no one was injured but a group of people gathered outside, some "commenting with derogatory remarks" at the fire.
While most Germans have been welcoming towards refugees, a vocal minority has staged protests in front of refugee homes, especially in the east. Germany last year saw a surge in violence against such lodgings.
Police ordered three people to leave the scene of the fire because they were hampering firefighters' work and then temporarily detained two of them, whom they described as intoxicated 20-year-old locals, after they ignored the order.
Investigators found traces of a fire accelerant at the scene and believe the fire was caused by arson, police said.
Saxony is home to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration group Pegida, and incidents there have caused concern before. In August, a mob in Heidenau, outside Dresden, hurled bottles and fireworks at police protecting a shelter being set up for refugees.
The Bautzen fire came after a mob in the small town of Clausnitz, also in Saxony, on Thursday screamed "We are the people!" and "Go home!" as they blocked a bus carrying asylum-seekers outside a new refugee home. Police drew criticism in that case for roughly hauling some migrants off the bus into the building and for saying that some of the migrants had made provocative gestures.
Governor of Saxony Stanislaw Tillich called the incidents "appalling" and described the perpetrators as "criminals". "This is abhorrent and disgusting," he told the Funke newspaper group. He pledged authorities will investigate.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said everyone in Germany is entitled to express their concerns "but there is a threshold of decency and law that must not be crossed - and this threshold was clearly crossed in the incidents in Saxony," the news agency DPA reported.