Far-right extremists blamed after Syrians beaten in Germany

NBC News reports: Violence against refugees in Germany reached new heights over the weekend as armed groups attacked Syrians in several towns.

The incidents included a group of at least 20 dark-clothed people — including some armed with baseball bats — targeting a group of asylum seekers early Sunday in Magdeburg, police said. Three Syrian men had to be treated in hospital for bruises and injuries to their faces. One of the attackers was arrested near the scene.

In Wismar, two Syrian men had to be treated in hospital after they were assaulted outside a building which is used as a shelter for refugees. Police said masked attackers armed with baseball bats and other weapons threatened and then beat the pair.

A 26-year-old asylum seeker was injured in Freital, Saxony, after an explosive device detonated in front of his bedroom window. A police spokesperson told NBC News they suspect that the act was motivated by right-wing extremism. [Continue reading…]


Germany’s growing hate problem

Der Spiegel reports: Germany has a hate problem — one that is growing.

“You’re as big of an asshole as that idiot Ralf Stegner,” a certain Birgit M. recently wrote in a letter to Thomas Kutschaty, justice minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was a referrence to the deputy party leader of state chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who recently said the organizers of the weekly Pegida marches in Dresden and elsewhere should be investigated by intelligence services. “You should all be put in a sack and have a hammer taken to you,” Birgit M. wrote in her tirade.

Then there was the man who called Dorothea Moesch, a local SPD politician in Dortmund, late in the evening on June 30. “We’re going to get you,” he threatened. “We’re at your door.”

Another local SPD politician in Hesse, district administrator Erich Pipa, has been similarly threatened. “We can have you taken out at any time,” he was informed in a letter.

And in Bernau in the eastern state of Brandenburg, graffiti scrawled on the wall of a warehouse namechecking the local mayor reads, “First Henriette Reker (the mayoral candidate stabbed in Cologne last weekend), next André Stahl.”

These are but a few examples — four politicians who have taken a stand, and, if the threats are to be taken seriously, may now need to fear for their lives. Kutschaty fell into the crosshairs for saying, “Pegida is not about protecting the Western world, it’s about its demise.” Moesch, for her part, attracted ire because she organized a protest against right-wing extremism. Pipa became the target of hatred because he was recently awarded a Federal Cross of Merit, Germany’s highest civilian honor, for his longtime lobbying work on behalf of refugees. Finally, Stahl was the subject of denigration because of his public declaration that he wants refugees to feel welcome in his city. [Continue reading…]


After Netanyahu claims Hitler didn’t want to kill the Jews, Germany insists it holds full responsibility for the Holocaust

Reuters reports: The German government said on Wednesday that responsibility for the Holocaust lay with the Germans, after Israel’s prime minister sparked controversy before a visit to Berlin by saying a Muslim elder had convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate Jews.

“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilisation that was the Holocaust,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said when asked about Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks.

“This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.” [Continue reading…]


Germany shows signs of strain from mass of refugees

Der Spiegel reports: The road to the reception camp in Hesepe has become something of a refugees’ avenue. Small groups of young men wander along the sidewalk. A family from Syria schleps a clutch of shopping bags towards the gate. A Sudanese man snakes along the road on his bicycle. Most people don’t speak a word of German, just a little fragmentary English, but when they see locals, they offer a friendly wave and call out, “Hello!”

The main road “is like a pedestrian shopping zone,” says one resident, “except without the stores.” Red-brick houses with pretty gardens line both sides of the street, and Kathrin and Ralf Meyer are standing outside theirs. “It’s gotten a bit too much for us,” says the 31-year-old mother of three. “Too much noise, too many refugees, too much garbage.”
Now the Meyers are planning to move out in November. They’re sick of seeing asylum-seekers sit on their garden wall or rummage through their garbage cans for anything they can use. Though “you do feel sorry for them,” says Ralf, who’s handed out some clothes that his children have grown out of. “But there are just too many of them here now.”

Hesepe, a village of 2,500 that comprises one district of the small town of Bramsche in the state of Lower Saxony, is now hosting some 4,000 asylum-seekers, making it a symbol of Germany’s refugee crisis. Locals are still showing a great willingness to help, but the sheer number of refugees is testing them. The German states have reported some 409,000 new arrivals between Sept. 5 and Oct. 15 — more than ever before in a comparable time period — though it remains unclear how many of those include people who have been registered twice.

Six weeks after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s historic decision to open Germany’s borders, there is a shortage of basic supplies in many places in this prosperous nation. Cots, portable housing containers and chemical toilets are largely sold out. There is a shortage of German teachers, social workers and administrative judges. Authorities in many towns are worried about the approaching winter, because thousands of asylum-seekers are still sleeping in tents. [Continue reading…]


The German lynchmob: Islamophobe movement returns with a vengeance

Der Spiegel reports: “I’m not a Nazi,” the innkeeper says, standing without an umbrella in the rain. “I know negroes, I know the döner kebab Turks. I just want my peace and quiet and my German rights.”

“Those aren’t Nazis,” the neighbor says, pointing to a group of young men. “Those are young people who the system has turned into who they are.”

We’re going to have to defend ourselves against the “Kanaken,” says a steward wearing a white band on his upper arm, using a German racial slur that refers to Southern Europeans and people from the Middle East.

Last Wednesday night, in the Einsiedel district of Chemnitz, a city in the eastern state of Saxony, a barricade set up by local citizens was still standing, as it had been for the past 48 hours. Once again, hundreds of people had gathered on Anton Hermann Strasse, which leads straight past pretty burgher houses up to a camp that used to belong to the Pioneers, the East German equivalent of the Boy and Girl Scouts. Those manning the barricade weren’t letting anyone through who wasn’t obviously recognizable as a local resident. The improvised checkpoint in front of a hotel was occupied around the clock.

An entry on the Facebook page for the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (more commonly known by its acronym, Pegida) had claimed last Monday that buses packed with “invaders” were making their way toward the camp. In response, local residents blocked the only road to the planned refugee accommodations — and Saxony police did nothing to stop them. [Continue reading…]


Germany’s refugee crisis is getting worse

Amy X Wang reports: When Germany announced in August that it would waive United Nations rules and allow Syrian migrants to apply for asylum regardless of how they got there, officials knew to expect a flood of people. Hopeful families were already surging into the country from all over the Middle East, an area crippled by social strife and political chaos. Authorities predicted the arrival of more than 800,000 refugees to the country by the end of 2015, and they tried to prepare accordingly.

But Germany is now sagging under the weight. Its cities and towns cannot easily accommodate all the refugees. An official from the Berlin Refugee Council called the issue an “organizational problem” rather than a financial one: Authorities don’t have the resources—or the time—to quickly provide registration, funds, secure accommodation, health services, and identification to all the refugees, 200,000 of whom arrived in September alone.

German police and politicians are frustrated. Exhausted migrants who traveled hundreds of miles to escape civil war only to be held in weeks-long waiting lines are even more so. And adding to Germany’s existing logistical problems now is another: The impending arrival of a freezing, harsh winter. [Continue reading…]

BBC News reports: Hamburg has become the first German city to pass a law allowing the seizure of empty commercial properties in order to house migrants.

The influx of migrants has put pressure on the authorities of the northern city to find accommodation. Some migrants are sleeping rough outdoors.

Hamburg’s law takes effect next week.

In a separate development, prosecutors filed charges of inciting racial hatred against a co-founder of the anti-Islamic Pegida movement.

The prosecutors in the eastern city of Dresden said they acted after Lutz Bachmann had on Facebook described asylum seekers “trash” and “animals”. [Continue reading…]


Mother Angela: Merkel’s refugee policy divides Europe

Der Spiegel reports: We can do it. That’s the message Chancellor Angela Merkel has been giving her country ever since she pledged in late August to provide refuge to anyone coming from Syria in addition to others seeking protection from violence and warfare. The initial euphoria in the country was significant, with tens of thousands of everyday Germans joining the army of helpers to try and cope with the huge influx of needy refugees.

But there have since been signs that the initial elation is fading. The most obvious, of course, was Berlin’s reintroduction of border controls on the German frontier with Austria a little over a week ago. But there have been others as well: Frustration in German states about insufficient federal assistance; grumbling within Merkel’s party about her open door policy; and conflicts with the Social Democrats within Merkel’s governing coalition.

Indeed, Germany is struggling to maintain its composure and to ward off panic despite all the rising doubts.

Can it be done? [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: After weeks of indecision, the European Union voted on Tuesday to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers among member states, a plan meant to display unity in the face of the largest movement of refugees on the Continent since World War II.

Instead, the decision — forced through by a majority vote, over the bitter objections of four eastern members — did as much to underline the bloc’s widening divisions, even over a modest step that barely addresses the crisis.

Nearly half a million migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe this year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a number that is only expected to rise. [Continue reading…]


UN funding shortfalls and cuts in refugee aid fuel exodus to Europe

The New York Times reports: One of the prime reasons for the wave of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers washing into Europe is the deterioration of the conditions that Syrians face in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, a worsening largely caused by sharp falls in international funding from United Nations countries, officials and analysts say.

That shortfall in funding, in contrast with the greater resources provided by Europe, is prompting some to make the hazardous journey who might otherwise remain where they are. The United Nations Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, which groups a number of humanitarian agencies and covers development aid for the countries bordering Syria, had by the end of August received just 37 percent of the $4.5 billion appeal for needed funds this year.

António Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, recently said that his agency’s budget this year would be 10 percent smaller than in 2014, and that it could not keep up with the drastic increase in need from the long Syrian conflict, which includes shelter, water, sanitation, food, medical assistance and education. The United Nations refugee agency’s funding for Syria this year is only at 43 percent of budgeted requirements. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Najim Rahim says that when he looks around his neighborhood in the northern city of Kunduz now, “I feel lonely.”

His friend Ahmad Ulomi, who worked in the photo shop down the street, gave up his photography studies and left with five family members, striking out across the Iranian desert on the way to Europe. The shop’s owner, Khalid Ghaznawi, who was Mr. Ulomi’s teacher, decided to follow him with his family of eight, and he put his business up for sale. Mr. Rahim’s friend Atiqullah, who ran the local grocery shop, closed it and also left for Iran with his wife. Another neighbor, Feroz Ahmad, dropped out of college and last week called from Turkey to say he was on his way to Europe.

All of that happened in the past two weeks as people in Kunduz are rushing to seize what many see as a last chance to make it to Europe, just as others are doing throughout Afghanistan. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Thousands of migrants poured into Austria on Saturday after being bounced around countries overwhelmed by their arrival and insistent that they keep moving.

Hungary — which had taken the most draconian and visible measures to turn back the exodus, notably the construction of a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia — partly caved Friday evening. It grudgingly allowed at least 11,000 migrants to enter from Croatia, and then sent them by bus and train to processing centers along its border with Austria.

The Austrian authorities said that about 10,000 people entered the country on Saturday, from Slovenia and Hungary. [Continue reading…]


The roots of German openness

Dominique Moisi writes: “Germany, Germany,” shout thousands of refugees, faced with the obvious bad will of Hungary’s political authorities, in front of Budapest’s Keleti railway station. They are dreaming of Germany – not any European country, but specifically Germany – the way, more than a century ago, Europe’s poor, fleeing misery – and, in some cases, pogroms – dreamed of America.

This represents a dramatic shift from the past. What a contrast between the photo, taken less than 80 years ago in the Warsaw Ghetto, of a small Jewish child with raised arms and fearful eyes, and one taken a few days ago in Munich of a smiling refugee boy, his head protected by a policeman’s hat. For the first child, Germany meant certain death; for the second, it offers hope for a better life.

And Germany does not represent just an abstract hope; the country is welcoming more migrants than any of its European counterparts, with Chancellor Angela Merkel having announced that the country will take at least 800,000 asylum-seekers this year. How can a country move so rapidly from darkness to light?

No one can deny the role of schools, civic and business leaders, and, of course, external forces in bringing about this change. But nor should one underestimate the importance of political leadership. [Continue reading…]


Open and shut: How Germany plays politics with its borders

By Holger Nehring, University of Stirling

Was it just a dream? Only last week, Germany made it clear that all refugees were welcome, and chancellor Angela Merkel became the Mother Teresa of European politics.

The country was able to bask in the glory of being an example of the good European – only months after Merkel had been chided for her politics of austerity towards Greece and after she had, to much criticism worldwide, told a young Palestinian girl that “we cannot take everyone in”.

But barely a week after the hearty welcome, the country closed its borders with Austria, the route by which the majority of refugees were arriving. Police forces and helpers in Bavaria were simply unable to cope with the massive influx of people – more than 20,000 refugees had arrived in Munich alone over the course of the weekend, more than UK prime minister David Cameron said his country was prepared to take in over the next five years.

[Read more…]


EU nations pull welcome mats for migrants, imposing new restrictions

The Washington Post reports: European nations once friendly to refugees abruptly yanked their welcome mats Thursday, as Germany considered slashing its benefits and Croatia announced it was closing most of its road links with Serbia “until further notice.”

The German measures would overhaul asylum codes to stem the massive flow of migrants into Europe, scaling back the generous policies that have made Germany a beacon for desperate war refugees and economic migrants pouring out of the Middle East, Africa and beyond.

In a 128-page draft law produced by the German Interior Ministry and obtained by The Washington Post, the government would speed asylum procedures, cut cash benefits, hasten deportations and punish those with false claims and phony paperwork. [Continue reading…]


Refugees still set on Germany despite border controls

Der Spiegel reports: Evrim, a refugee from the ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo, has wrapped herself in a wool blanket, her red sweatshirt no longer offering sufficient protection against the cold. The young woman with dyed-blonde hair would rather spend the night in front of Vienna’s Westbahnhof Station than sleep in an emergency shelter. She is planning on taking the very first train to Germany the next morning.

“We heard that Germany has closed the border,” Evrim says. But she doesn’t really want to believe it. She heard the news from Mohammed, who is also from Aleppo and is part of the group of 15 Kurds from Syria she is traveling with. The group coalesced on the refugee trail, which leads from Turkey across the Western Balkans to Hungary and beyond. Mohammed, for his part, heard the news from a British journalist who had interviewed the group in the early evening right after they crossed into Austria from Hungary. “Maybe he misunderstood (the journalist),” Evrim says.

But he wasn’t mistaken. On Sunday evening, Germany introduced temporary border controls along its frontier with Austria in response to the massive numbers of refugees that have been making their way to Germany in recent weeks. Officials from Germany’s 16 states sounded the alarm back on Thursday, warning that refugee hostels were full and that they could no longer process the huge numbers of newcomers.

The temporary border controls — which could last as long as two weeks, according to Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, who spoke on public radio on Monday morning — are intended to give Germany a chance to catch its breath while at the same time ratcheting up the pressure on other European Union member states to accept a quota system for the distribution of asylum recipients across the bloc. EU interior ministers are meeting on Monday to try to find a solution. [Continue reading…]


Escape from Yarmouk: A family’s journey to Germany from hell on Earth in Syria

Vice News reports: As the train packed with refugees left Budapest’s Keleti station in the direction of Austria, only one family remained on the platform. “We couldn’t buy tickets because we don’t have any money, armed thieves took everything from us,” said Tarek al-Hajj Khalil, a Palestinian from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria.

The 19-year-old refugee sat flanked by his five sisters: Nour, 18, Reem, 17, Rama, 16, Raneem, 15, Bayan, 4, and her twin brother Aamer. The group arrived the night before after being released from a Hungarian detention facility, and looked to continue onward to Germany, where they hope to receive asylum.

“Everything is broken from the trip,” Tarek said as he banged away at a Samsung phone with a cracked screen and missing battery cover.

He tried desperately to reach his brother Mustafa, who had crossed into Austria three days earlier with their mother. The family became separated after they were robbed on the Serbia-Hungary border. Thieves took nearly $5,000 in cash, and now the family had only $1,000 left hidden on one of Tarek’s sisters. A smuggler demanded exactly that much to drive his mother and brother Mustafa to Budapest after they crossed into Hungary. [Continue reading…]


Islamists in Germany trying to recruit young refugees

AFP reports: Muslim radicals in Germany are trying to recruit some of the growing numbers of asylum seekers reaching the country, according to intelligence services quoted by the German news agency DPA.

The Islamic extremists “are trying to approach the young unaccompanied refugees, who arrive in our country without their families and are particularly looking for contacts and support,” a spokesman for the intelligence service in the southern state of Bavaria told DPA.

He said many of the youths are approached around reception centres but also at Munich railway station where many of the asylum seekers have arrived from Hungary and Austria in recent days.

The Islamic extremists “want to take advantage of the insecurity and distress of the refugees,” he said. [Continue reading…]


Germany to take half a million refugees as Greek isles overwhelmed

AFP reports: Germany said it could take half a million refugees annually over several years as Greek islands struggled Tuesday to process a huge backlog of migrants desperate to travel to western Europe.

Reflecting deepening concern, the European Union’s president warned the EU faced a years-long refugee crisis, while the UN urged countries worldwide to help tackle the problem.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged greater flexibility in EU migrant quotas as her deputy, Sigmar Gabriel, said Berlin “could surely deal with something in the order of half a million (refugees) for several years.” [Continue reading…]


Germany’s open-door policy in migrant crisis casts nation in a new light

The Los Angeles Times reports: German officials say they are prepared to accept as many as 800,000 asylum seekers this year, a number equal to 1% of the population. The government announced Monday that it would set aside $6.7 billion next year to deal with the influx.

France and Britain also said Monday that they would increase the number of refugees they would accept.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that his country would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees within the next five years, and French President Francois Hollande pledged to admit 24,000 asylum seekers in the next two years. [Continue reading…]


Neo-Nazi arsonists: German officials concerned by growing far-right networks

Der Spiegel reports: It was April 16 when around 100 right-wing extremists marched through the small town of Nauen in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. Their message: “Nein zum Heim!” or “No to the Hostel!” They carried posters and German flags along with them. “Nauen Will Stay White!” read one. “Take Action!” read another.

One day later, employees of Mikado, a local youth center, found that the tires of the center’s minibus had been slashed. There was a note under the windshield wiper reading: “Dear asylum friends, Tröglitz is here too.” The reference was to an arson attack on a refugee shelter not two weeks before in the town of Tröglitz in the eastern state of Saxony.

Skip ahead to Monday night a week ago when a planned asylum hostel — to be established inside a high school gymnasium — was gutted by flames in Nauen, just outside Berlin. The fire occurred just a short time before the first refugees were scheduled to move in. On the Tuesday evening after the fire, a group of 300 assembled for a vigil amid the biting stench of the rubble. Local politician Roger Lewandowski, of the conservative Christian Democrats, pledged that town residents wouldn’t be cowed by the attack. “If you shrink in the face of such attacks, gymnasiums and hostels will soon be burning everywhere.”


The fire in Nauen was the 27th at a German refugee hostel since 2012 — and the fifth within a single week. [Continue reading…]


Did Bush and Cheney consider launching a nuclear strike on Afghanistan after 9/11?

Der Spiegel interviewed Michael Steiner, a German career diplomat who was Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s foreign policy advisor in 2001:

SPIEGEL: What was it like in the days following the [al Qaeda] attacks?

Steiner: Condoleezza Rice was George W. Bush’s security advisor at the time. I actually had quite a good relationship with her. But after Sept. 11, the entire administration positively dug in. We no longer had access to Rice, much less to the president. It wasn’t just our experience, but also that of the French and British as well. Of course that made us enormously worried.


Steiner: Because we thought that the Americans would overreact in response to the initial shock. For the US, it was a shocking experience to be attacked on their own soil.

SPIEGEL: What do you mean, overreact? Were you afraid that Bush would attack Afghanistan with nuclear weapons?

Steiner: The Americans said at the time that all options were on the table. When I visited Condoleezza Rice in the White House a few days later, I realized that it was more than just a figure of speech.

SPIEGEL: The Americans had developed concrete plans for the use of nuclear weapons in Afghanistan?

Steiner: They really had thought through all scenarios. The papers had been written. [Continue reading…]