Across Europe, the burgeoning refugee crisis has brought with it a rise in the violence toward asylum seekers and increased tensions between locals and immigrants.
Germany stands as one of the countries in Europe with the highest number of attacks against those seeking to start a new life. It is also the country that hosts the most asylum seekers.
So far this year, 222 attacks against homes and shelters for asylum seekers have been recorded. In those attacks, 104 people were injured, according to German newspaper Die Zeit.
Yet despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s promise last September that the government would go after such attackers with “all means available,” charges have only been filed in 5% of such cases.
Merkel has been hailed by some as the leader of Europe’s humanitarian response to the refugee crisis and critiqued by others for her open-door policy. Even inside of her own party, the chancellor is facing backlash for her stance, which has sparked perhaps the biggest political controversy of her career.
Since January, Germany has registered almost 1 million asylum seekers, according to the BBC. And the number is expected to surpass 1 million by the end of the year, as the usual lull in the number of asylum seekers coming over in the colder months has so far not gone according to usual trends.
Die Zeit‘s investigation into the cases showed that only four attacks resulted in the conviction of an attacker. Police found suspects in only one-quarter of the cases. A number of investigations have already been completely discontinued.
The publication’s investigation also found that the number of attacks has sharply risen from an average of two a month for the first four months of the year to an average of 17 in the last four months.
Die Zeit wrote that many of the attacks are committed at night. Molotov cocktails or projectiles are often thrown from moving cars or from a distance with perpetrators disappearing quickly, making it hard for police to track them down.
The location of the shelters far away from cities makes witnesses scarce in most occurrences, and investigators are often faced with silence and a near-impossible list of questions.
The article pointed out that in the cases in which perpetrators were found, police used extensive resources. Lack of police personnel in Germany might be at least partly to blame for the lack of convictions, the publication reported.
The newspaper’s investigation also showed that the number of solved crimes against refugee homes is far lower than for comparable infractions against other targets.
Since the November 13 attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead, the world has seen a rise in anti-refugee sentiments. In Europe, the attacks have made an already exasperated and scared population, tired of a seemingly endless stream of people pouring into the continent, more entrenched in their stances. And it could make attacks against asylum seekers more likely.
The rising xenophobia in Germany has also become apparent in the rising number of protests held by the anti-immigrant Pegida (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West”) group and the spiking support for the far-right party Afd in recent polls.
But anti-immigration sentiments have not been confined to Germany. In Sweden, a string of attacks against refugee homes has prompted the government to keep secret the locations of those accommodations.
And in France, the anti-immigration National Front party gained unprecedented support on Sunday in the first round of the country’s regional elections.
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