Attacks on German refugee centres soar

The latest in a string of attacks on buildings housing refugees in Germany occurred in the early hours of yesterday morning when a former hotel in the village of Reichertshofen, near Munich that was intended for 67 asylum seekers was gutted by fire. No one was staying in the building at the time.

The incident - which followed a petition signed by 1,200 residents against housing new refugees - is just the latest in a worrying string of attacks on buildings intended to house those seeking asylum. Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, the Bundeskriminalamt, told Newsweek that there were 71 attacks on buildings housing refugees in the first three months of this year alone. That compares to 150 for the whole of 2014, 58 for 2013, and 24 for 2013.

The German government expects the number of people seeking asylum to more than double this year to 450,000. This would be a record number for the country.

Andreas Hieronymus of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), says that from what he reads in the German media, these sorts of attacks on empty buildings are happening three or four times a week. "Everyday something is happening here in relation to asylum seekers homes", he says.

He explains that reception centres in Hamburg, for instance, are now receiving 200-300 asylum seekers on a daily basis, and the local administration has run out of resources, resorting to providing tents and sports halls for housing, which is fuelling tensions.

News of the latest attack followed reports that a Google map on the service's 'My Maps' feature that reveals the location of refugee centres around Germany has been circulated online by neo-Nazi groups.

The map, titled "No refugee centre in my backyard", shows Germany covered in dots indicating refugee accommodation, despite it making no distinction between centres housing hundreds of refugees, or those just housing a few.

According to Deutsche Welle, the map, which gives out addresses of refugee centres as well as requesting users to provide more information, was produced by a German neo-Nazi group which goes by the name 'The Third Way'.

Google confirmed to Newsweek that they have now removed the map from their service, explaining in a statement: "We're firm believers in access to information and freedom of expression. Where content is illegal or breaks our content policies or terms of service, including promotion of hatred or harm, we remove it from our products."

Hieronymus thinks the map is a particularly ominous sign, and could have been used as a mobilisation tool, and a "new way of agitating".

"It's worrying because [anyone] can look and find an asylum seeker home close to him or her, and think: can I make an arson attack or demolish it, or do something else to prevent asylum seekers coming to my area?' It gives people the opportunity to be active," he says.