Germany sounds alarm over rise in xenophobic hate crimes

Warning of radicalisation as annual figures show a rise in racially motivated offences

Crimes against refugees have risen after Germany took in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine. AP
Crimes against refugees have risen after Germany took in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine. AP
Tim Stickings author image

Tim Stickings

Crimes motivated by hate and xenophobia are at their highest level in Germany since records began in 2001, officials announced on Tuesday.

An Afghan-born activist said hate crimes against children and young people had doubled in the space of a year.

Racist activism and violence against refugees are causing “fear and uncertainty” especially in former East Germany, experts said.


Muslims with headscarves wait 4.5 times longer for jobs in Germany

The number of racially motivated offences and crimes against refugees was up — although those recorded as Islamophobic were down.

“In parts of the population there are tendencies towards radicalisation,” said Holger Muench, president of Germany’s federal criminal police.

“These developments — especially in the areas of right-wing politically motivated crime and hate crime — must be taken very seriously.”

Most hate crimes are linked to the far right, which is believed to have grown in strength during protests against Covid-19 restrictions.

A Flourish map

There was a rise in activity linked to the far-right Reichsbuerger movement, which rejects the legitimacy of Germany’s post-war democracy.

The Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) have been linked to two alleged plots to overthrow the German state.

Episodes of right-wing violence have included alleged arson attacks on refugee accommodation in Germany.

Germany’s first MP of African origin, the Senegalese-born Karamba Diaby, last week revealed his office was set on fire by a suspect he said had racially abused him several times.

There is a particularly great danger of right-wing extremism

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser

Analysts said there was a particularly sharp rise in right-wing violence in the former East Germany, where economic problems and a lack of integration have long created a breeding ground for racism.

At least 520 children and young people were subjected to right-wing and racist attacks last year in a sample of mainly eastern states, up from 288 the year before, according to an institute that works with victims.

“Racially motivated attacks against children and young people have doubled in the space of a year and massively influence the everyday lives of affected families,” said Sultana Sediqi from Young People Without Borders.

Ms Sediqi, an activist originally from Afghanistan, said families “all too often feel left high and dry” by the German state.

It is feared the German far-right scene grew in strength during protests against Covid-19 restrictions. AFP
It is feared the German far-right scene grew in strength during protests against Covid-19 restrictions. AFP

Police counted 10,038 xenophobic crimes in Germany last year, the highest figure on record, of which 1,139 involved violence.

The annual rate has surpassed the levels recorded during the European refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016 when an influx of people fleeing war in Iraq and Syria led to a backlash on the far right.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said she was “especially concerned” about rising attacks on refugees last year after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took shelter in Germany from the war with Russia.

“It is inhuman in the highest to attack people who have found protection here from war and terror,” she said. “It shows that there is a particularly great danger from right-wing extremism.”

There were 610 Islamophobic crimes, down from 732 a year earlier and the lowest figure since police started counting them in 2017.

The vast majority (532) of the latest figure was motivated by right-wing political views, with five attributed to the left and others to vague ideologies.

Anti-Semitic crimes were down from a peak but authorities said there was “no cause to sound the all-clear” as they warned of the danger of Islamist extremists’ hatred of Jews.

The government has promised to tighten gun laws after it emerged that many suspected right-wing extremists were members of legal shooting clubs.

Ms Faeser said the threat of Islamist extremism “remains high” after a foiled ricin plot in January, and she vowed to “continue with our tough stance”.

Authorities also reported a rise in offences linked to climate protests, classed as a left-wing politically motivated crime.

Ms Faeser said the government would not allow “urgently necessary support for tackling the climate crisis” to be undermined by disruptive climate-related protests.

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