German right-wingers and asylum seekers clashed in an eastern town, police said on Thursday, in the latest sign that the mood towards migrants is deteriorating around a year after they started arriving in Germany in large numbers.
About 80 young men and women, mainly Germans from the right-wing scene who had been drinking beer, gathered in central Bautzen, some 50 kilometres northeast of Dresden, on Wednesday evening and chanted the town belonged to Germans, police said.
Opposite them stood a group of around 20 unaccompanied minors — meaning they are younger than 18 — who are seeking asylum in Germany.
“Police were called at around 20.50 and told that two groups were going at each other … attacking each other verbally and by throwing bottles, wooden slats and other such things,” Uwe Kilz, head of Bautzen’s police force, told a news conference.
The incident comes as Chancellor Angela Merkel faces widespread criticism for an open-door refugee policy that saw around one million migrants arrive here last year, pushing down her approval ratings and boosting support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Merkel said earlier on Thursday that Germany needed “viable solutions” to integrate refugees into the workforce faster.
Police formed a chain to separate the two groups and used pepper spray and clubs after asylum seekers threw bottles, wooden slats and other objects at officers.
When the asylum seekers left, they were followed by the group of Germans and even after being separated by police both groups headed towards a shelter, into which the asylum seekers then fled.
Police told the 32 young asylum seekers who were in the home not to leave the building. An 18-year-old Moroccan in the building showed cut wounds on his arms but it is not yet clear where those came from, police said.
The criminal police have launched a probe on grounds of suspicion of breaching the peace and grievous bodily harm.
In February a shelter for asylum seekers was set ablaze in Bautzen, with several spectators applauding and some hindering the work of firemen.