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23 Jan, 2018 00:14

German city bans new refugees amid violence, residents doubt it will ‘solve problem’

The eastern German city of Cottbus won’t accept any more migrants in a bid to ease tensions after a surge in violence involving refugees. Some local residents, however, say the temporary ban won’t help resolve the core problem.

A university city of some 100,000 residents, Cottbus, saw a string of attacks in a matter of days. Last week, two Syrian teenagers stabbed a 16-year-old German in a brawl, leaving the teen face injuries. Days earlier, one of the Syrians involved in the knife attack reportedly took part in an assault on a married couple outside a shopping center. 

Following the two violent incidents, the teen offender and his father were handed a “negative residency permit” in a first such step by city authorities, meaning the two had to leave. 

READ MORE: Merkel agrees to limit number of refugees entering Germany

The measures didn’t end there, as the interior minister of the Brandenburg state, Karl-Heinz Schroter, announced last Friday that these “shameful incidents must have consequences.” As a result, Cottbus will not be taking in any more migrants for the next few months. 

The temporary restriction, however, is not “a solution to the problem,” a Cottbus local, Andrej Belker, told RT. “In any case, people don’t feel as safe as they used to. There’s some insecurity here,” he added.

While there’s “a need for action,” authorities came up with an approach that's “a little bit questionable," another resident, Lars Kaczmarek, said. “Probably, they could have looked into this case more deeply, to see whether there are other options.”

“They make it look like asylum seekers or whoever attacked the Germans, but there were also cases when it happened the other way around,” a local, Alicia Kuhlmann, said, pointing to the case in which a group of Germans beat up three Afghans on New Year’s Eve that didn’t attract that much attention.

Yet, there is “a breaking point for even the most tolerant of communities,” according to a lawmaker from the right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD), Hugh Bronson. “There are about 3,000 migrants who have entered Cottbus, and mostly, they are young males from North Africa and Syria, bringing with them a completely different culture of conflict resolution,” he said in an interview with RT.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s much-maligned open-door policy towards migrants and refugees boosted support for the populist AfD party, which entered the Bundestag for the first time in its history, securing 94 seats in last year general election.

With nearly 1 million people seeking asylum in Germany since the refugee crisis erupted in 2015 – fuelling strong anti-migrant sentiments – Merkel’s CDU is struggling to reach a coalition agreement with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). A draft CDU-SPD agreement suggests keeping the number of refugees coming to Germany within the range of 180,000-220,000 per year, according to German media. The document reportedly covers the refugees’ family reunification process, suspending it untill a new law is adopted and aiming to finally cap it at 1,000 people per month.

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