New statistics show enduringly high level of xenophobic hate crimes in Germany

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According to figures released by the German Federal Criminal Police Office, 877 crimes against asylum shelters and housing units of refugees were recorded from January until late November 2016. This compares to 1031 cases in 2015 and 199 in 2014.

Offences comprised a large number of property damage cases, propaganda delicts—which include the defacing of walls with xenophobic or racial slurs—as well as 151 acts of violence. Among these, there were 64 cases of arson and five bomb attacks.1) http://www.news38.de/welt/article208868749/Dieses-Jahr-schon-877-Angriffe-gegen-Fluechtlingsheime.html

A spokesperson for the criminal police remained cautious as to whether the slightly lower number of attacks in 2016 meant that the peak of xenophobic violence had passed. She also noted that numbers for both 2015 and 2016 were not final and could still increase.2) http://www.schwaebische.de/panorama/aus-aller-welt_artikel,-Laut-BKA-877-Angriffe-gegen-Fluechtlingsunterkuenfte-bis-Ende-November-_arid,10574729.html

A potential pool of undetected cases

It is worth noting that the number of politically motivated anti-immigrant crimes overall – i.e. attacks directed not just against housing units specifically – is still substantially higher.3)http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/fremdenfeindlichkeit-rechtsextremisten-werden-immer-haeufiger-gewalttaetig/14595458.html

Moreover, human rights organisations have long criticised the inability or unwillingness of Germany’s 16 federal states to comprehensively list far-right crime, repeatedly noting that official figures are far too low.4)http://www.br.de/nachrichten/rechtsaussen/rechtsextremismus-extremismus-opfer-rechter-gewalt-100.html

In 2015, for instance, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation published findings that the number of right-wing homicides since reunification in 1990 was more than twice as high as officially recorded.5)https://www.mut-gegen-rechte-gewalt.de/news/chronik-der-gewalt/todesopfer-rechtsextremer-und-rassistischer-gewalt-seit-1990 In the same vein, Amnesty International recently castigated the German state of systematically failing to identify and address racist violence.6)https://www.amnesty.de/files/Amnesty-Bericht-Rassistische-Gewalt-in-Deutschland-Juni2016.pdf

An increasingly radicalised core

Even if the overall numbers of xenophobic and racist crimes might be stagnating in 2016, there are indications that the hard core of the anti-immigrant movement is increasingly prone to using more drastic means.

Officially recorded acts of attempted homicides are up, for instance, with authorities aware of 11 cases during the first three quarters of 2016. 7)http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/rechtsextremismus-zahl-der-versuchten-toetungsdelikte-durch-neonazis-steigt-stark/14703844.html In another high-profile case, the far-right militant group ‘Freital’ is currently on trial on charges of terrorism and attempted murder.8) http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/gruppe-freital-anklage-101.html

On the one hand, this court case is a success, in the sense that a high-profile disaster comparable to the case of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) was avoided: the NSU’s string of murders had not uncovered for years due to a multiplicity of highly suspect investigatory mishaps. On the other hand, the Freital group reportedly received constant tip-offs and help from a member of the local police9)http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-11/gruppe-freital-sachsen-polizei-leck-ermittlungsverfahren – a fact that once more raises questions about the capacity of German security forces to deal with the right-wing threat.

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