Fires break out at German refugee site

Berlin – Security at asylum sites in Bavaria was being stepped up on Friday after fires broke out at three empty buildings earmarked to house asylum seekers, and anti-foreigner slogans and swastikas were painted at one site.

The fires broke out late on Thursday evening in Vorra, in southern Germany near Nuremberg, and police said they were treating it as an arson case.

There was no one in the buildings at the time. The blazes were extinguished quickly but one firefighter was slightly injured.

“We will do everything to identify the perpetrators,” Bavaria’s interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, told Bavarian radio, adding that he plans to increase security at other facilities for asylum seekers.

If an anti-foreigner motive is confirmed, “these arson attacks are abhorrent acts that the chancellor condemns in the strongest terms”, said Christiane Wirtz, a spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany has seen a surge in asylum applications this year, partly because of the war in Syria, and cities and rural communities have been struggling to provide housing for the influx.

There also has been mounting concern in recent weeks over rallies in several cities by groups protesting what they call “the Islamisation of the West”.

“There’s no room for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, for hatred of foreigners or racism [in Germany],” Wirtz said. “The chancellor condemns such tendencies in the strongest possible terms.”

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