HEIDENAU (Germany) • Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday condemned violent protests against refugees that erupted over the weekend in eastern Germany, blaming them on far-right extremists bent on spreading a "disgusting" message of hatred.
More than 30 police officers were injured in clashes in the town of Heidenau near Dresden last Saturday after a mob of several hundred people, many of them drunk, began pelting officers with bottles and fireworks. Some shouted "Heil Hitler".
Germany, which expects the number of asylum seekers to quadruple to about 800,000 this year, has seen dozens of arson attacks on asylum shelters. But the violence in Heidenau at an emergency centre for refugees was unprecedented.
Vice-chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel travelled to the town of 16,000 yesterday, meeting the mayor and residents.
"There are a lot of people that worry their lives will change because of the refugees, that living here will become less secure," he said. "But it must be clear that we don't give a single millimetre to these far-right mobs. These are people that have nothing to do with Germany. This is not the Germany we want."
Dr Merkel, through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, said it was disgusting how right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis had tried to spread their message of hate near a shelter in Heidenau, where some 250 refugees arrived late last Friday.
"The Chancellor and the whole government condemn in the strongest manner possible the violence and the aggressive atmosphere towards foreigners there," he said.
Heidenau is in an electoral district where the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) won 8.7 per cent of the vote in a state election last year. It was the third-highest NPD score in all of Saxony.
Mayor Juergen Opitz described the protesters as an "unholy alliance" of far-right elements.
Many of the refugees arriving in Germany are fleeing violence in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, but over a third are from European countries like Albania and Serbia. REUTERS