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Arson Attack Destroys New Austrian Refugee Center

Firemen extinguish fires at a building for asylum seekers in Altenfelden, northern Austria, June 1, 2016.
Firemen extinguish fires at a building for asylum seekers in Altenfelden, northern Austria, June 1, 2016.

Suspected arsonists have burned down a new refugee center in Austria near the German and Czech borders.

The Red Cross said 48 asylum-seekers had been expected to move into the residential center in two weeks. Authorities said the building at Altenfelden in northern Austria was deliberately set ablaze overnight.

No injuries were reported, but it took several dozen firefighters to control the flames that swept through the wood-frame building.

The Red Cross said the arson attack was a shocking act of vandalism, unlike any it had seen previously in Austria during the current refugee crisis, which has left nations across Europe struggling to cope with a swelling tide of migrants, most of them from the Middle East and Africa.

The Red Cross estimated the fire damage at $335,000 but said it will build a new shelter on the same site.

Altenfelden, Austria
Altenfelden, Austria

The Altenfelden attack was a rare instance of violence in a country that took in 90,000 asylum-seekers last year, more than 1 percent of its population.

In Paris, meanwhile, city officials have announced plans for a refugee camp on the northern edge of the French capital.

The migrant crisis in the Mediterranean region has taken a deadly turn in the past week, with 880 would-be refugees drowning in multiple shipwrecks off the coast of Libya.

Overall, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday more than 2,500 refugees and migrants have died this year while trying to reach Europe. That compared to a death toll of 1,855 during the same period of 2015, as people tried to cross the Mediterranean and reach the prosperous countries of central and northern Europe.

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