FRANKFURT • Violence by rightist extremists targeting refugees in Germany is rising fast, according to federal and state officials.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with Funke Media Group published on Oct 8 that there have been 490 attacks on asylum shelters so far this year.
Figures from the anti-racism foundation Amadeu Antonio showed just 153 such attacks in the whole of last year.
"There is a massive increase of xenophobic attacks against asylum seekers," he said.
Two-thirds of the attacks were by local citizens who had no previous criminal record, he noted. A third of the alleged offenders were already known to the police - often due to right-wing extremist offences .
Mr de Maiziere said hate mail, insults and foul language are a breeding ground for violence.
Bavaria state intelligence agency Verfassungsschutz's deputy spokesman Soenke Meusser said on Monday: "There is also a potential risk that extreme rightists' ideas are seeping into the mindset of ordinary citizens who are not structurally linked with these associations but sympathise with their ideas.
"We are seeing the danger that those citizens could be radicalised and be pushed to commit violence," Mr Meusser said.
"They are stirring up hatred via the Internet," he added.
"For example, one group has a map on its website showing locations of refugee homes. The map's size gives the wrong impression that the whole of Germany is engulfed by refugee shelters on a large scale."
Dresden in Saxony state has been the site of many racism- motivated physical attacks.
However, most of the attacks on refugee homes have occurred in western Germany, such as in North Rhine-Westphalia, which absorbs the biggest number of refugees, followed by Saxony and Bavaria.