Germany is failing to deal with a surge in hate crimes and signs of “institutional racism” among law-enforcement agencies, according to Amnesty International.
The report released by the UK-based group on Thursday says that even before the influx of more than a million refugees and migrants to Germany last year, authorities had not adequately investigated, prosecuted or sentenced people for racist crimes.
It pointed to the discovery in 2011 of a small neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which murdered nine immigrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
“With hate crimes on the rise in Germany, long-standing and well-documented shortcomings in the response of law-enforcement agencies to racist violence must be addressed,” Marco Perolini, Amnesty International researcher, said.
“German federal and state authorities need to put in place comprehensive risk assessment strategies to prevent attacks against asylum shelters. Further police protection is urgently needed for shelters identified at highest risk of attack,” added Perolini.
The number of racially motivated attacks has never been as high as now in the history of post-World War II Germany, according to Selmin Caliskan, Amnesty International’s director in Berlin.
In addition to racist violence against immigrants, there are signs of institutional racism in public administration, Caliskan said.
Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, said his ministry would carefully evaluate Amnesty International’s report and examine whether action needed to be taken.
“One thing is clear – a state under the rule of law can never accept racist violence. We need to do everything we can to quickly catch the perpetrators and rigorously punish them,” he said in an emailed statement.
After a 19-month inquiry into the NSU, a parliamentary committee said a combination of bungled investigations and prejudice enabled the NSU to go undetected for more than a decade.
The Amnesty International report said Germany should set up an independent public inquiry to look over the NSU investigations as well as how the nation classifies and investigates hate crimes.
The group said part of the problem was that there was a high bar on considering a crime racist in Germany and treating it as such.
Amnesty said that Germany witnessed 1,031 crimes against asylum shelters in 2015 – 16 times as many as those committed in 2013, which had amounted to 63.
Meanwhile, “racist violent crimes against racial, ethnic and religious minorities increased by 87 percent, from 693 crimes in 2013 to 1,295 crimes in 2015,” the report added.
Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s interior minister, has said that the number is likely to rise again this year, with 347 such attacks registered in the first quarter of 2016 alone.
While refugees who arrived in Munich last September were applauded and handed sweets, the mood has since soured, with concerns about integration and security rife.
AfD party and Refugee Crisis
About six anti-refugee protests took place each week in 2015 and support for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany is rising, Amnesty International said.
Alternative for Germany raised strongly in the past months, as man Germans fear the consiquences of the huge influx of refugees in their country.
The head of the AfD has said that German border police should shoot at refugees entering the country illegally.
AfD entered state parliaments in all three regions that voted three months ago, winning 24% of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and over 10% in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) lost support in Baden-Württemberg – a region dominated by the CDU since the end of the second world war – and Rhineland Palatinate but remained the largest party in Saxony-Anhalt.
The results suggested that German politicians increasingly appear to have two options: rally behind their chancellor, or rail against her.
The rise of the AfD, meanwhile, will significantly alter the political landscape in the country. Spiegel commentator Sebastian Fischer warned of “Austrian conditions” in Germany. “In our neighbouring country the rightwing populists of the FPÖ have established themselves firmly over the years and now have a stake in the race to the chancellorship. The political discourse has been poisoned. Social Democrats and Christian Democrats are doomed to be locked in an eternal coalition – which in turn is just what the FPÖ have been waiting for. A vicious circle.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung’s veteran commentator Heribert Prantl wrote: “The remarkable thing about the AfD is that it succeeded without a real leader at the top. We’ve always know that xenophobic attitudes prevail among up to 20% of the population in our country – just like in other EU countries, where far-right parties have long established themselves. But until [now] the prevailing view in Germany was that this bottom crust could not be active without a charismatic leader. It now emerges that such a figure is not required.”
Katya Andrusz, communications coordinator for the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), told DW that Germany is not the only EU member state affected by racially motivated discrimination and violence.
“Racial discrimination is most definitely an issue in Germany – but not only (there). It is a problem throughout the EU, and one that must be combatted at the level of national governments, regional authorities and frontline practitioners,” Andrusz said.
“Without belittling the seriousness of these figures, it must be understood that in countries such as Germany that collect such data on hate crime and other bias-motivated incidents, the high numbers often show that the given country is doing more to record and combat the phenomenon than other EU countries where official statistics show a low number of attacks,” Andrusz added.
The Amnesty report noted that while Germany witnessed a surge of anti-migrant sentiments in the past year, the “German public has been among Europe’s most welcoming to refugees.”