Five people have been injured in a fire in a migrant shelter in Heppenheim near Frankfurt. Police are investigating whether this may be the latest in a series of arson attacks on refugee homes across Germany.
German police on Friday confirmed that five people have been injured in a blaze at Heppenheim in the western state of Hesse.
“One resident who tried to rescue himself by jumping out of a window from the second floor was seriously wounded,” police spokeswoman Christiane Kobus told journalists. Four other people were poisoned by the fumes.
Eye witnesses reported smoke coming out of the building at around 0130 hours CET (0030 hours UTC). Firefighters arrived soon after, accompanied by emergency doctors and ambulances.
“The fire was extinguished quickly,” Kobus said.
Initial examinations revealed that the fire had broken out behind the entrance door, but it was too early to say whether it was a case of arson. An official investigation has been ordered into the incident.
More than 60 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Algeria and Somalia among others were accommodated in the shelter, which lies 60 kilometers south of Frankfurt.
The building is now uninhabitable and authorities are looking for another suitable place to accommodate the migrants, officials said.
Friday’s fire comes shortly after violent anti-migrant protests at Heidenau in eastern Germany and several cases of arson attacks on refugee homes in Berlin, Lower Saxony and Bavaria.
Germany is witnessing an unprecedented influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants, many of whom are fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
…European leaders struggle to find common ground in refugee crisis
Tension among European countries are rising as the continent grapples with an unprecedented refugee crisis. The issue tops the agenda on Friday with Germany pushing for the controversial concept of quotas again.
Representatives of EU countries are looking to find a solution to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of migrants who are making it to Europe, but a consensus seems elusive.
On Friday, Hungary will meet with other members of the Visegrad group, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland to discuss the crisis and coordinate the group’s position with the EU.
The conference in Prague will focus on the thousands of migrants stranded in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, since the beginning of this week.
Thousands of refugees remained stranded in Budapest after Hungary refused to allow them to cross the border to Austria or Germany. The country was also hastily constructing a razorwire fence on its border with Serbia and warned it would send 3,500 soldiers to keep migrants off its territory.
The Czech Republic, which insisted the EU had to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees fleeing conflict, and Slovakia, which was rejecting people from Muslim countries, were to talk to Poland and coordinate their positions with the EU.
The Visegrad group’s meeting will coincide with an informal conference of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Friday. EU leaders are expected to discuss refugees’ countries of origin and transit. The discussion could initiate a change in the Dublin rules, which stipulate that a refugee register in the country of entry into the European Union.
EU officials are also expected to speak in Greece’s island Kos that has been inundated by refugees and migrants in the past weeks. The European Commission’s Vice President Frans Timmermans described the situation as an “unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis.”
Officials in Austria are meanwhile preparing to reveal autopsy results of 71 migrants who were found dead in an abandoned truck near Vienna last week. The incident sparked revulsion across Europe, prompting leaders to crack down on human smugglers.
The urgency to tackle the crisis was heightened after pictures of a boy who died trying to cross the Aegean Sea were widely publicized in the media. Amid growing pressure at home, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “deeply moved” by the images of the three-year-old.
British media reported that Cameron was preparing to respond to the demands of accepting more migrants by picking them up directly from UN camps in Syria. However, he did not divulge any specific plans.
Cameron’s statements came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed on a proposal to impose binding quotas on the number of refugees taken in by each EU member state. Berlin expects 800,000 applications for asylum this year. Most refugees include people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and African countries.
OPINION: The return of the repressed
There are people on social media and Internet forums who speak harshly about refugees. These people are the ones who do not take part in the general debate, something which gives cause for concern, says Kerstin Knipp.
Whatever your opinion may be of Sigmund Freud, he has definitely left behind some useful terms: Ego, superego, drive and projection. The vocabulary, which has its origins in psychoanalysis, can be used to explain the public debate about refugees and asylum seekers in Germany. There is no other term that more aptly describes the current situation than Freud’s “the return of the repressed.”
Repression appears in online forums and social media these days. The forms of expressing it are cynical, usually coarse, impetuous, and sometimes full of hatred and acrimony. The primitive and often poorly-spelled writing conveys what readers and writers think of German refugee policy. And it wouldn’t be exaggerated to say that not everyone is pleased.
The language of hatred
Actually, if you really think about it, many people are not pleased. The reservations are articulated in street talk, often at gutter level. Insults and taunts are directed towards journalists, who are sometimes referred to as traitors who should be exposed for what they are. Sometimes it seems like these critics want to take the law into their own hands. People who are not satisfied about the latest developments and their portrayal in the media are venting their anger on the web.
The aggressive forms of expression lead one to ask where the root of the rage lies. One of the answers is the fact that a public consensus prevails in a scope unseen until now in civilized establishments, like the media. It seems as though a silent understanding has been reached: In view of the enormous human suffering, human migration towards Europe has only been given positive press. Criticism or skepticism? No, thank you.
The silence shows one thing more than any other: Journalists are scared. They are scared to make critical comments, or ask critical questions to avoid inciting more hatred, abuse, arson attacks and even murder. Caution is advised as some people simply do not understand the difference between critical questions and raw hatred.
Restraint of expression in political debate
On the other hand, concerns about expressing unpleasant facts restrict the debate in a strange manner. Normally, German media does not shy away from arguing about the nation’s problems – they are openly and keenly discussed. Journalists usually weigh up the pros and cons, extract frills from necessities and differentiate between what is feasible and impossible. Unfortunately, in the refugee debate, a thorough analysis has been almost fully avoided.
Yet, many questions are clear: Can Germany manage to integrate all the newcomers? How many refugees can the country handle? What is the social impact of the mass migration on work, housing and the welfare system?
Many people on social networks are annoyed because these questions are not being asked. At least sensitive individuals take an introspective approach: Are these skeptics, who consider themselves to be on middle ground politically, suddenly moving to the fringes of right-wing fanaticism? Do they belong to the good Germany or “Dunkeldeutschland” (Dark Germany) as German President Joachim Gauck referred to the arsonists and racists? Or have they suddenly turned into racists and nationalists, as Frank Kafka’s character Gregor Samsa in the novel “The Metamorphosis” turned into a monstrous bug overnight?
The debate about the refugees seems strangely one-sided and comes across as a moral discussion – or least one with an underlying moral tone. That’s not good for the nation. Peoples’ online interactions illustrate how the repressed returns and, often, in the most unpleasant manner conceivable.
It becomes all the more important to portray this side, especially in the media. Despite all the vulgarity, the public debate on future challenges must be more open, more critical and diverse in the long term. Not asking questions means that they do not exist.