Surge in anti-migrant violence in Eastern Germany ‘threatens economy’ – govt report

© Ina Fassbender
A dramatic rise in assaults on refugees and the spread of xenophobic sentiment in the eastern German states that previously formed the German Democratic Republic pose a threat to their economic and social well-being, a state report on German reunification says.

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The annual report, presented Wednesday by Iris Gleicke, German federal government’s commissioner for eastern German affairs, argues that “xenophobia, right-wing extremism and intolerance pose a very serious threat to the to the social, but also economic development of the ‘new’ states.”  It cites a devastating increase in attacks on refugees, saying that they could scare off potential economic immigration.

Compared to the western German states, where an average of 10.5 attacks inspired by right-wing sentiments were committed per 1 million citizens, the numbers are some five times higher in the east.

In Mecklenburg-West Pomerania the German domestic intelligence agency reported a staggering rate of 58.7 attacks per million citizens, while in Brandenburg and Saxony, 51.9 and 49.6 cases were registered respectively.

Gleicke believes the statistics diminishes the chances of the east part of the country to catch up on the western states’ economic prowess.

“Eastern Germany’s brain drain and shrinking population can be resolved with a mass influx of people from crisis regions,” she argued.

Twenty-six years after reunification, the five post-communist German states, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, are struggling to reach the level of GDP per capita enjoyed by the “old” western German states. In 2015, the gap between the west and east amounted to 27.5 percent. While many workers, high-skilled, in particular, moved to the western part of the country in the 90es, the east needs experience the lack of the qualified workforce. 

However, due to the soaring rate of anti-migrant crime the foreign business and high-skilled workers from abroad are becoming reluctant to settle in there, the paper says.

“Right-wing extremism in all its forms poses a very serious threat for the social and economic development of the new states,” Gleicke said, adding that although “the large majority of eastern Germans are not xenophobic or right-wing extremists,” they tend to turn a blind eye to such crimes.

“We East Germans have to take the matter into our own hands and decide whether we want to protect our cities and villages or leave them to the brown nightmare,” said the commissioner, who hails from eastern Germany herself, Deutsche Welle reported. She then called on the fellow citizens to turn their states “into a new home for refugees with a chance of remaining in the country.”     

The tensions triggered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy towards migrants have been running high in Germany, which took over 1 million refugees last year.

The public distaste with the policy, inflamed by media reports of alleged sex assaults by migrants on German women, has resulted in numerous attacks on refugees, including arsons and attacks on shelters. In one of the most recent incidents of the kind, 40 people, including eight children, were pepper-sprayed in a refugee housing facility by an employee of a building company working at the site of the shelter.

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Last year, 1,408 attacks by right-wing extremists were reported in the country, which is 42 percent more than in the previous year. The number of arson attacks have also multiplied, from five in 2014 to 75 last year.