German officials condemn anti-refugee mobs in east

German officials condemn anti-refugee mobs in east
German officials have expressed shame after a viral video showed a mob shouting and blocking a bus of refugees, sparking a heated debate online.
2 min read
21 February, 2016
Saxony registered the highest number of anti-migrant attacks [Getty]

German officials have condemned "disgusting" anti-refugee mobs in the ex-communist east of the country, after two incidents saw crowds cheer a blaze at a planned refugee shelter.

A group of 20-30 apparently drunken onlookers applauded as a fire took hold in a former hotel being converted into home for asylum seekers, in a suspected arson attack in the town of Bautzen in Saxony state overnight. 

Some members of the group also tried to impede the work of firefighters dispatched to the scene, police said.

A police spokesman said that the group showed "unabashed delight" at the blaze and made "disparaging comments" about the efforts to contain it. Luckily, no one was hurt in the incident.

The events came two nights after about 100 angry people in the Saxony town of Clausnitz tried to block the arrival of a bus carrying some 20 asylum seekers to a new shelter including terrified children.

The scenes, captured on video, show the mob angrily shouting "We are the people", borrowing the pro-democracy slogan from the peaceful revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The images, which have gone viral on social media, show police officers dragging terrified refugees out of the coach, including a teenage boy reportedly from Lebanon. 

Political officials expressed outrage at the incidents.

"Racists are pathetic lawbreakers, a disgrace for our country. Shame on you!" Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth wrote on Twitter.

"Those who shamelessly applaud when houses burn and scare refugees to death are displaying disgusting and revolting behaviour," Justice Minister Heiko Maas tweeted.

Maas told media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland he was stunned by the growing brazenness of far-right groups, which he said crossed the line of free expression to become a threat to public safety. 

"Verbal radicalism is a prelude to physical violence," he said.

He noted that there were more than 1,000 criminal acts against refugee shelters recorded in Germany last year, when the country let in nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers. 

Saxony registered the highest number of attacks.