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German Government Warns Against Rising Xenophobia

FILE - PEGIDA activists rally against the German government's refugee and migrant policies, in Leipzig, eastern Germany, Jan. 11, 2016.

Growing xenophobia and rightwing extremism in the ex-communist east of Germany could threaten peace and risk its image as a place to do business, a German government report warns, urging civil society to take a stronger stand against anti-migrant actions,

Releasing the report in Berlin, the commissioner for eastern German affairs, Iris Gleicke, said “determined action from the government, the states, communes and civil societies is necessary to ensure peace in eastern Germany."

More frequent attacks

Attacks were more frequent in eastern German states with 58.7 cases of far right-motivated violence per one million inhabitants last year, compared to the average of 10.5 cases in western German states, the report said.

Gleicke warned that "rightwing extremism in all forms poses a very serious threat to the societal and economic development" in the eastern region of the country.

"It's quite clear that a location that does not show itself to be liberal-minded will face economic disadvantages," she said, “society should not look away when people are attacked or refugee shelters are set on fire.”

In previous years, the annual report had mainly focused on industrial regeneration for the region, which has been economically behind the west and experienced a wave of depopulation as mostly younger people left for the west for jobs.

FILE - Migrants sit in a canteen in a refugee camp in Celle, Lower-Saxony, Germany, Oct. 15, 2015.
FILE - Migrants sit in a canteen in a refugee camp in Celle, Lower-Saxony, Germany, Oct. 15, 2015.

Rising xenophobia emerged as a key concern this year, as the influx of migrants in 2015 has been accompanied with anger and attacks on asylum seekers in many eastern states such as Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Germany recorded 1,408 violent acts carried out by right-wing supporters last year, a rise of more than 42 percent from 2014, and 75 arson attacks on refugee shelters, up from five a year earlier, according to government statistics published in June.

Germany's acceptance of more than one million refugees last year boosted popular support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is now represented in all of the eastern federal states, and mounted criticism and resentment for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy towards refugees.