Arson attacks on refugee shelters, assaults, swastikas sprayed on walls — as Germany has taken in record numbers of asylum seekers, it has been rocked by a xenophobic backlash which authorities have appeared unable to stop.
With one million arrivals expected in the EU’s most populous nation this year, about half of them from Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel has rallied Germans to welcome the newcomers and vowed to crack down on hate-mongers.
While vast numbers of Germans have volunteered to help refugees, there has also been a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment that has buoyed the populist and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere once again warned last week that the rise in hate crimes, ranging from property destruction to attempted murder, was “shocking and unacceptable”.
In September, Merkel — who herself had endured xenophobic protesters` ugly verbal slurs during a visit to a migrant shelter — vowed that attacks targeting asylum seekers would be punished “with the full force of the law”.
Yet, according to a survey by news weekly Die Zeit, of the 222 most serious attacks on shelters reported this year, only four cases have resulted in convictions so far.
“If the state really wants to ‘act with the full force of the law’, it should do considerably more,” the newspaper asserted.