The number of people applying for asylum in Germany has increased significantly in recent months, leading to a housing shortage. In Berlin, a conflict with residents and the far right has erupted as a result.
When some 200 asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere moved in to a newly opened shelter in Berlin’s Marzahn-Hellersdorf district this week, they weren’t exactly greeted by a welcoming committee. About 30 right-wing extremists descended on the site on Tuesday to protest the facility, while another 600 counter-demonstrators were there to drown them out.
“Asylum seekers scram!” shouted the extremists, who showed up at the home on Carola-Neher Street at the behest of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). “Refugees are welcome here!” shouted the others. Meanwhile, 250 police were on hand to keep the two groups separated and 25 arrests were made. Some of the asylum seekers reportedly left the home immediately out of fear.
On Wednesday, the protests continued, with the right-wing populist group Pro-Berlin calling on its followers to demonstrate at several locations in the city.
The protests this week are just the latest clash in Berlin over the rapidly rising numbers of asylum seekers in Germany and the urgent need to find them shelter. This year has seen the most refugees seeking asylum in Germany since 1999, with the total for 2013 expected to top 100,000. According to the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees, 43,000 people sought asylum in Germany in the first six months of the year, an increase of 86.5 percent compared to the first half of 2012.
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