Suspected arson attack on German refugee shelter

Police say overnight fire at a converted sports hall intended to house refugees in Nauen was likely the result of arson.

    Suspected arson attack on German refugee shelter
    Dozens of police were injured when a far-right mob hurled bottles and fireworks at officers in Heidenau on Friday and Saturday [Reuters]

    A school sports hall converted into an emergency refugee shelter has caught fire in the German town of Nauen, in what police suspect was an arson attack.

    The hall in the eastern town of Nauen, located 15km west of the capital Berlin, had been redesigned to house about 130 asylum seekers, who were awaiting transfer to permanent housing locations.

    Police in nearby Potsdam said that the fire spread soon after it was discovered, leading them to believe the incident may have been planned.

    Little pockets of fire around the building prevented any immediate police investigations, but officials said they would be looking for clues immediately after firefighters had declared the site to be safe.

    Nobody was injured by the fire.

    Far-right protesters had repeatedly demonstrated against the arrival of asylum-seekers in Nauen this year.

    'Shameful'

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to visit a refugee shelter at the centre of recent riots by neo-Nazis, an official said on Tuesday.

    Merkel will travel to Heidenau, south of Dresden, on Wednesday to meet refugees, support workers and local officials, her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement.

    Dozens of police were injured when a far-right mob hurled bottles and fireworks at officers trying to ensure asylum seekers could move into the repurposed hardware store in Heidenau on Friday and Saturday.

    Speaking on Monday, Merkel called the incident "shocking" and "shameful."

    Germany has seen a surge in refugees coming to the country this year, with officials predicting the number could reach 800,000 by the end of 2015.

    While most Germans have been welcoming to the refugees, a minority has vocally opposed them.

    Attacks against refugees and asylum centers roughly doubled to 202 during the first half of the year, including eight cases of arson.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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