The frontline of Germany’s migrant crisis: Inside the small town where Nazi hate mobs hold violent protests and threaten to burn down refugee centres
- Freital, which has taken 2,200 new arrivals, is a flashpoint for trouble where locals clash with migrants in the street
- Refugees there say residents treat them like dirt, they want to leave – while locals say migrants have brought trouble
- Protests came to a head earlier this year when one angry woman threatened to ‘burn’ the immigration centre down
- Freital is similar to dozens of other towns around Germany, which has accepted one million refugees already in 2015
- 500 incidents of racially motivated attacks on refugees in the country from hate mobs in first eight months of year
Attacks from locals and drug-fuelled violence among refugees has seen disillusioned migrants feeling trapped in one of Germany’s most heated social flashpoints.
Refugees staying in the small eastern town of FThe new frontline: of Germany’s migrant crisis: Inside the small town where hate mobs hold violent protests and threaten to burn down immigration centrereital who once dreamt of a new life in Germany from their war-torn lands are now longing to move to what they see as more tolerant cities such as Berlin, or even to other countries such as Sweden and the UK.
It is little surprise: Freital, with a population of 39,000 and home to 2,200 refugees, has become a poster town for the refugee crisis in Germany, a place where resentment from locals over the migrants have frequently boiled over into violence and seen it become a byword for intolerance.
A focal point for the protests has been Hotel Leonardo, a former three-star conference hotel where rooms had cost from around 35 euros per night before it was sold and turned into a shelter for asylum seekers in March this year for around 400 migrants.
Earlier this year, up to 1,200 Freital residents, joined by right-wing protesters, clashed with pro-refugee counter demonstrators outside the hotel on weekday evenings, with police forced to separate the two groups as eggs and insults of ‘Nazis’ and ‘leftist fascists’ were hurled.
The anti-Muslim, anti-immigration PEGIDA movement, which at the height of its popularity earlier this year drew thousands of people to weekly marches in the nearby city of Dresden, capital of the German state of Saxony, also has a sister group in Freital, which goes by the acronym of FRIGIDA.
The group claims online that ‘our town will stay clean – Freital is free’.
Hostilities have reportedly eased in the town following what was supposed to be a reconciliatory meeting held by the regional authorities in July, when angry locals brought the meeting to an abrupt end after shouting down one of the politicians, with one resident screaming: ‘We will burn down the hostel.’
But abuse from locals remains a part of everyday life for many refugees.
Sam Jaff, a 30-year-old from Baghdad in Iraq, told MailOnline in good English on his way back to Hotel Leonardo from town: ‘When we walk in the city people show me the finger. Especially when we go to Dresden.
‘When they look at you, they look at you with different eyes. In this region, people are not very good. I think Berlin is better than here.’
Wearing a Union Jack T-shirt as he smoked a cigarette outside Hotel Leonardo, 28-year-old Gandhi Jan told MailOnline via a friend who interpreted into English: ‘My dream is to go to Britain. London is very good. I love Britain. People would love to go there.’
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