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Germany records 300 attacks on refugee shelters in 2016 Q1

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Firefighters prepare hoses outside an asylum seekers' shelter in Villingen-Schwenningen, southern Germany, on January 29, 2016, after someone threw an explosive device over the fence. (AP photo)

German police have recorded almost 300 attacks and other criminal offences on refugee shelters so far this year.  

German police sources said on Tuesday that of the 292 offences registered in the first quarter of 2016, 33 were arson attacks, 59 were acts of violence, and one was an explosion.  

Law enforcement agencies fear that the 2016 attacks against refugee shelters across Germany could exceed last year's level. 

Figures show that the incidents of violence against refugees and asylum seekers reached 1,029 last year, compared with 199 in 2014 and 69 in 2013.

Germany has witnessed multiple similar attacks on residences for refugees as the country took in more than one million asylum seekers in 2015. 

However, the flow of asylum seekers into Germany has slowed to a trickle in recent weeks after Balkan nations shut their borders in order to prevent the refugee influx into Europe. 

Supporters of anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement attend a protest rally in Leipzig on March 7, 2016. (AFP photo)

Rival rallies on refugees in Leipzig

Rival rallies were held in the German city of Leipzig on Monday as demonstrators for and against the influx of refugees into the country take to the streets. 

An estimated 500 supporters of LEGIDA, which is an offshoot of the anti-Islam and anti-refugee group PEGIDA, protested against the government's refugee policy. 

During the march, the angry demonstrators held signs condemning German Chancellor Angela Merkel and refugees. They called for Merkel's immediate resignation and asked German authorities to deport all asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, a counter-protest was held in Leipzig city center by around 1,000 pro-refugee activists who accused the far-right group of fascism. 

A large number of riot police were deployed to prevent any incidence of violence. Security forces kept both groups separated throughout the march and no incidents were reported.

The demonstration aimed to raise awareness among people about challenges facing refugees who are living in the city shelters. 

Germany opened its borders to the refugees last summer with a welcoming mood, but it gradually shifted away from the policy and now Chancellor Merkel stresses that the number of refugees arriving in the country needs to be reduced.

Police officers in riot gear stand in front of a damaged building in a street of the Connewitz district in Leipzig on January 11, 2016 where far-right supporters and hooligans went on a rampage on the sidelines of a xenophobic rally. (AFP photo)

Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. 

Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in those regions, forcing more people to flee their homes. 

The European Union and Turkey reached a deal in March, under which refugees arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

Leaders from EU member states also pledged to provide €3 billion ($3.19 billion) to Turkey to help it handle more than two million refugees in the country. 

EU leaders also promised to open fresh negotiations on Turkey’s accession process to the union, and to reward Turkish citizens with visa free access to the Schengen zone.

People gather on the beach as asylum-seekers deported from Greece arrive aboard a small Turkish ferry in the port of Dikili district in Izmir, Turkey, on April 4, 2016. (AFP photo)

On Monday, two passenger boats carrying dozens of refugees from Greece arrived in Turkey, whose territory the asylum-seekers had used to reach Europe, as part of an agreement signed between the Turkish government and the EU. 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and several rights groups have voiced concern about the deal, saying it could lead to “collective expulsions” of war-hit people in violation of international law.

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