migrant crisis

Migrants Faced More Than 3,500 Attacks in Germany Last Year: Report

The burnt-out remains of a former hotel in Bautzen, Germany, that was meant to serve as a shelter for 300 asylum applicants until being set ablaze in February of last year. A crowd of onlookers reportedly cheered the fire and tried to block efforts to put it out. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

There were 3,533 attacks on migrants and shelters for asylum-seekers in Germany last year, according to a preliminary report from the country’s Interior Ministry. Those attacks, more than 2,500 of which struck individual migrants when they were out in public, left 560 people injured, including 43 children. Nine-hundred-and-eighty-eight attacks targeted housing, and some 217 refugee organizations and volunteers were attacked as well. All told, that means that migrants and their advocates faced an average of ten attacks per day in 2016.

Those numbers mark what is likely a dramatic increase in violence against refugees in the country. Amnesty International reported last June that there were 1,013 crimes committed against refugee shelters and nearly 1,300 violent crimes committed against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in Germany in 2015. Amnesty also concluded that German authorities had largely failed in their efforts to address the growing violence.

“People who have fled their home country and seek protection in Germany have the right to expect safe shelter,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement accompanying the 2016 data, which was released in response to a parliamentary question.

As the BBC points out, 280,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in 2016, down from more than 600,000 in 2015. The migrant crisis, and German chancellor Angela Merkel’s once open-armed policy toward admitting asylum seekers from Syria and other countries has become a major political issue in Germany, and has also greatly influenced the political debate around immigration in other European countries. Merkel and her political coalition face what is expected to be a tough general-election fight in September, largely due to logistical and cultural concerns within Germany about the integration of the migrant newcomers, as well as fears that the influx has increased the threat of terrorism.

Some of the terrorist attacks that have struck Europe over the past few years — like the one which killed 12 people at a Christmas market in Berlin in December — were perpetrated by asylum seekers, and that connection has been emphasized by anti-immigrant groups on the far right, including in Germany. There have also been some false news stories stoking Islamophobia in the country, and opposition to Merkel, as well.

As a result of the concerns over migrants, Merkel and her allies have worked to slow the pace of admission for additional migrants, as well as accelerate the removal of refugees whose requests for asylum have already been denied. However, as Deutsche Welle notes, the asylum decision process in Germany continues to take a very long time. At the end of 2016, some 59,000 asylum seekers had been waiting for more than a year-and-a-half for a decision, up 13,000 from the same time period in the previous year. In addition, while the number of migrants being allowed into Germany has dropped significantly, the number of applications for asylum there has gone up, and at present, more than 400,000 applications remain unprocessed.

Migrants Faced More Than 3,500 Attacks in Germany Last Year