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18 Oct, 2016 19:25

Christian refugees persecuted by Muslim asylum seekers in German shelters – survey

Christian refugees persecuted by Muslim asylum seekers in German shelters – survey

Christian asylum seekers as well as members of other religious minority groups living in refugee shelters across Germany face systematic persecution from both Muslim refugees and Muslim staff, a recently published survey shows.

As many as 743 Christian refugees and 10 Yazidis living in refugee centers in various German states have reported religiously motivated attacks between February and September 2016, a survey conducted by several charitable NGOs says, stressing that collected data should be “considered … as the tip of the iceberg,” as “there are a high number of unreported cases.”

Fifty-six percent of the affected refugees said that they were subjected to violent assaults and were beaten up while 42 percent of them said that they or their family members received death threats both from fellow refugees and Muslim staff, including volunteers and security personnel working at the centers.

Forty-four Christian asylum seekers also reported sexual attacks, the survey presented during a press conference in Berlin on October 17 said, adding that all reported attacks were motivated by the Christian or other non-Muslim faith of the victims.

At the same time, an absolute majority (83 percent) of the refugees who participated in the survey said that they faced persecution “several times,” while only 8 percent said that it happened to them only once.

The survey was conducted by Christian charity Open Doors, Action on behalf of Persecuted Christians and the Needy (AVC), European Mission Society Fellowship (EMC) and the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany (ZOCD).

The survey also said that most Christian refugees who were subjected to persecution in German asylum centers came from Syria and Iran, with half of all Christian asylum seekers surveyed being converts from Islam. Most of those surveyed were men (75 percent) and half of the respondents were under 35 years old.

The survey particularly stressed that converts living in the shelters are facing the highest risk of persecution as, “according to the Quran their change of faith is considered as a crime worthy of the death penalty, therefore they are explicitly in danger.”

“More than a few asylum seekers are likely to uphold the concept they are familiar with from their home countries even after having fled to Germany, that anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity has committed a major offence. What is more, converts sometimes experience harsh rejection by Muslim security guards and interpreters,” the report claims.

Most victims of persecution are afraid of reporting their cases to police as they fear that the situation would get worse. As a result, only 17 percent of affected refugees contacted police officers. Some of the victims also complained to the charities that interpreters working at the shelters deliberately twist their words while other said that security staff at the shelters takes no measures to prevent the attacks.

Some Christian refugees even had to return to their countries of origin because of persecution they face in German refugee centers, Paulus Kurt from the ZOCD told German Die Welt daily.

The survey provoked an outrage among some German politicians. Martin Neumeyer, the Bavarian government’s commissioner on integration, said that those guilty of persecution should face harsh consequences.

“Those who terrorize Christians or atheists in the refugee shelters should have no right to apply for asylum,” Neumeyer said at a press conference after the presentation of the survey.

A member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Kai Wegner, told die Welt daily that he was embarrassed by the allegations presented in the Open Doors report.

“Those who spread religious hate in Germany are not welcome here,” he said, adding that the offenders should “feel… the consequences” that would particularly affect their right to stay in Germany.

At the same time, some German states are apparently trying to downplay the issue. Ralf Jaeger, the Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, where more than 120 cases of attacks on Christian asylum seekers were recorded, said that his ministry has “no evidence of religiously motivated attacks on Christian refugees or other religious minorities.”

The Bavarian Interior Ministry said it is aware of the problem but still expects that “all asylum seekers will live peacefully together irrespective of their religion, origin or sexual orientation.”

The charities that conducted the survey said that urgent measures should be taken to protect religious minorities in the refugee centers. They said that there should be at least equal number of Christians and Muslims in those centers where they live together. At the same time, the relief organizations stress that they “have long called for” separate accommodation of Muslim and non-Muslim refugees.

They also said that more non-Muslim staff members should work in the centers in order to properly tackle religious conflicts.

According to the German authorities, Muslims account for three quarters of the total number of asylum seekers that came to Germany during the refugee crisis. According to revised statistics, 890,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, while previous estimations put the number at 1.1 million.

Between January and June 2016, more than 200,000 newcomers were officially registered in Germany, according to Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble called for the creation of “German Islam” that would be based on the principles of tolerance and European liberalism and will eventually help integrate refugees into German society.