Far-right protests overshadow German Unity Day

Chancellor Merkel booed by angry crowds opposing her refugee policy during national celebration in Dresden

Far-right protests overshadow German Unity Day

World Bulletin / News Desk

 Far-right demonstrators booed Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling her a “traitor” during national unification celebrations in Dresden on Monday.

Angry protestors of the far-right PEGIDA movement protested Merkel’s refugee policy by shouting “traitor”, “get out” and “Merkel must go” as the chancellor arrived at a historic church in Dresden’s city center to attend celebrations marking the 26th anniversary of German reunification.

They carried signs that described Merkel as a dictator and shouted slogans calling for her resignation. PEGIDA followers also booed President Joachim Gauck and the premier of the eastern German state of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich.

The eastern German city of Dresden has been the stronghold of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement, which drew thousands to anti-refugee protests in the city.

Saxony’s premier Tillich has expressed regret over the anti-refugee protests, and warned that the propaganda of the far-right groups has started to ignite hate and violence.

“That is inhuman and deeply unpatriotic. We are all opposing this,” he said, in his speech at the celebrations.

Far-right crimes have significantly increased in Dresden since 2015, potentially triggered by Neo-Nazi propaganda and right-wing populist movements that have exploited the refugee crisis and fears of Islam.

The incidents of far-right violence have increased from 48 in 2014 to 116 last year, according to the advocacy group RAA Sachsen.

A bomb attack targeting Dresden’s Fatih mosque last week raised worries over the growing threat by far-right groups in the region.

German Chancellor Merkel met Monday the imam of the Fatih mosque, Hamza Turan, and his family members, who survived the bomb attack unharmed.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted a photo showing the chancellor talking to the imam, his wife and his two children, during a reception at the German Unity Day celebrations.

The attack was condemned by Merkel’s conservative-left coalition government, which has taken a clear stance against the far-right PEGIDA movement and populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Germany accepted a record 890,000 refugees last year, according to revised statistics announced last week. Most of them were Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.

Despite a steady economic growth and low levels of unemployment, claims by the far-right and populist parties have contributed to spark security fears and foster anti-refugee and anti-Muslim sentiments.

Merkel has defended her open-door policy for refugees fleeing civil wars, despite the heavy defeat of her party in recent regional elections.

She underlined Germany’s international and humanitarian responsibilities for people who need protection, but also promised a more resolute approach against economically motivated migrants who entered the country illegally. 

Merkel also argued that a solution to the refugee crisis could only be found by addressing the root causes of the problem, i.e. finding a political solution to the civil war in Syria, improving conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey and stopping illegal trafficking through the Aegean Sea through closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey.   

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ekim 2016, 19:49