As conflicts in the Middle East continue, the Syrian refugee crisis has perpetuated across Europe. In Germany specifically, thousands of refugees have been migrating into the country, staying in refugee housing, train stations, sports halls and anywhere else they can find. In 2016 alone, Germany had 280,000 asylum seekers, according to the Independent. However, as more migrants enter Germany, they have been forced to face sharp increases in hate crimes against them, to the point where in 2016, there were an average of 10 attacks on refugees and shelters per day, according to Al Jazeera.
This trend is not new; in fact, Amnesty International reports that hate crimes against refugees increased from 63 in 2013 to 1,031 in 2015, an increase of 16 times. In 2016, the German interior ministry reported a total of 3,500 attacks against refugees, migrants, and shelters. Violent racist crimes also increased generally, not only toward refugees.
While the German government has been struggling to handle the influx of refugees, its attempts to combat hate crimes have been minimal. However, these numbers indicate a much greater need for government attention. If these hate crimes continue to go unchecked, violent anti-refugee movements will continue to grow stronger, and the number of hate crimes will become even more devastating. The ideas that motivate these crimes will also be perpetuated, driving others to develop the same biases.
In one of the countries that has been the most welcoming to refugees, these conflicts simply cannot be allowed to stir. They create an unnecessarily hostile environment in what many refugees expect to be a safe haven from their home countries. Instead, many refugees have found themselves in as much danger as they were in at home. For example, nine men attacked Abdurrahman, a Turkish national, after he closed his kebab shop, resulting in life-threatening injuries. Ciwan B., a Syrian Kurd, was also attacked, this time in Dresden in 2015. As Ciwan told Amnesty International, “I escaped a war in Syria and I don’t need to face tensions here in Germany. I just would like to work … and to have a good life, as I had before the war.”
Unfortunately, this is not possible unless the German government and law enforcement take greater steps to prevent hate crimes and prosecute those who commit them. So far, their reputation has been dismal. Perhaps one of the most notable failures has been the investigation of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) regarding a series of killings from 2000 to 2007. Law enforcement officials did not follow up on leads and reportedly victimized the relatives of the victims. They also failed to consider racist motivations behind the attacks that would have classified them as hate crimes. As a result, a number of refugees are fearful and distrusting of law enforcement, which only increases the conflicts between refugees and local Germans.
To combat these problems, Germany must be more willing to identify and take action to stop hate crimes. This means that law enforcement must hold greater responsibility to examine the racist implications behind hate crimes and to prosecute those responsible. The issue has been allowed to be swept under the rug, and as a result, the country has averaged 10 attacks against refugees per day over the past year. The government must take a more active role in establishing policies that address this very real and urgent problem.
Perhaps the greatest concern with this issue is that it is cyclical. As hate crimes increase, a hostile environment will be created for refugees, and counterattacks will increase. Greater biases and distrust will lead to greater hatred, and the conflict will pursue. If countries that have agreed to grant asylum to refugees intend to create the welcoming environment they have promised, they must address these internal tensions before it is too late.
Alex Oliveira is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.