Europe

Germany migrants: Residents battle asylum seekers in Bautzen

Refugees and asylum-seekers in Bautzen on 14 Sept Image copyright AP
Image caption Asylum seekers (pictured) were accused of taking over the central square in Bautzen

Residents have clashed with asylum seekers in a town in eastern Germany that has become a flashpoint for anti-refugee sentiment.

Some 80 locals, described by police as far-right, brawled with 20 young asylum seekers in Bautzen.

The asylum seekers were chased to their hostel and put under police guard.

The mayor said the town had to avoid becoming a playground for the far right. A curfew has been imposed on the young asylum seekers.

Anti-migrant tensions have been mounting in Bautzen this year.

Locals cheered when a building due to house migrants was set on fire in February.

The following month, President Joachim Gauck was verbally abused when he visited Bautzen to discuss the influx of refugees in Germany.

Bautzen and the nearby town of Niedergurig are home to four asylum shelters.

Bautzen is 60km (38 miles) east of Dresden, where the "anti-Islamisation" Pegida movement began.

Since the arrival last year of 1.1 million irregular migrants and refugees in Germany, some areas, particularly eastern states, have seen a rise in anti-migrant violence as well as support for the anti-Islam AfD party.

Germany's federal police force says there have been 700 attacks on asylum accommodation this year, including 57 arson attacks.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption An 18-year-old Moroccan showed reporters on Thursday the injuries he received during the violence

A region with a far-right reputation: analysis by Damien McGuinness, BBC News Berlin

Each fresh outbreak of refugee-related violence is potentially a political problem for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Some voters say large-scale migration could destabilise German society.

As a result the chancellor's conservative coalition has been haemorrhaging voters to the insurgent anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. That's a particular worry given that this weekend voters in Berlin region go to the polls, and next year Mrs Merkel's national government faces re-election.

But many Germans from other parts of Germany are more likely to blame the clashes on racist sentiment, rather than see it as a product of the chancellor's welcoming stance on refugees.

That is because this beautiful area of ex-communist eastern Germany already has a rather ugly reputation for neo-Nazi support and right-wing extremist violence.


Wednesday's outbreak of violence in Bautzen was a dramatic escalation after days of tension in the town.

The clashes appeared to be triggered by an incident the previous evening, when a 32-year-old resident was hurt by a bottle being thrown.

On Wednesday night a group of some 80 people, described by police as right-wingers, shouted slogans at up to 20 young asylum seekers, accusing them of taking over the central Kornmarkt shopping centre.

Tensions escalated, fuelled by alcohol, and scuffles broke out.

Police said they tried to separate the groups and asked them to leave. Then the asylum seekers - all thought to have come to Germany as unaccompanied minors - hurled bottles and wooden sticks at the police, who responded with pepper spray and batons.

When they did disperse, they were pursued by the locals to a nearby asylum centre.

An ambulance crew was caught up in the clashes when far-right residents hurled stones at their vehicle as they tried to take an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum seeker to hospital for treatment.

"It wasn't anarchy, but there was at least a chaotic phase that I would say lasted between 45 and 90 minutes," said police chief Uwe Kilz.

Local mayor Alexander Ahrens said he would not tolerate the violence. "It cannot be that Bautzen turns into a playground for right-wingers spoiling for a fight".

The young asylum seekers will now face an alcohol ban and a 19:00 curfew.

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