Germany: Left-wing politician car-bombed as refugee attacks rise

August 2, 2015
Die Linke councillor and refugee activist, Michael Richter.

Just after midnight on July 27, a bomb exploded in the car of left-wing politician and refugee activist Michael Richter in the town of Freital on the outskirts of Dresden in eastern Germany.

Richter, a 39-year old town councillor for the socialist party Die Linke (The Left) was not in the car. No one was harmed by the blast, which also damaged a nearby car.

Police are yet to assign blame, but Richter is certain the attack came from right-wing groups in the area, who have threatened him repeatedly in recent months over his campaigning work for refugees.

“I am one of the faces in Freital who say we are for asylum, and I think that's the reason for the attack,” Richter said. “Threats have now become reality. They are trying to scare me, but I will not give up.”

In Germany, there has been a steady rise in violence against asylum seekers in the past year. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior recorded 202 attacks in the first six months of this year alone, compared to 162 in all of last year and 58 in 2013.

These attacks have mainly involved vandalism on houses being built for new refugees, but some have included physical violence against asylum seekers and their supporters.

On July 24, a far-right group attacked a refugee camp in Dresden, while the following night saw an apartment housing refugees in Brandenburg set alight.

On July 26, a dozen windows were broken in a converted hotel in Dresden that was due to start housing refugees later that week.

A proposal to shelter 280 refugees in Freital has fed the xenophobia in the town. In recent months there have been street clashes between groups protesting both for and against the refugees, and one council meeting ended in a riot.

Responding to the rise in attacks, Rainer Wendt, the head of the German Police Union, has called for a ban on demonstrations within a kilometre of refugee housing.

“People who flee persecution have the right not to look into the faces of those throwing stones,” Wendt told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper.

Antje Feiks, regional manager of Die Linke in the state of Saxony, suggested that a spike in anti-Islam marches earlier this year have stirred up more violent anti-immigrant sentiment in the region.

In October last year, a new right-wing movement, PEGIDA, began holding weekly marches in Dresden against the “Islamisation” of Germany.

[A longer version is published on Duroyan Fertl's blog.]

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