“Germany has made remarkable efforts to protect and receive refugees and in many ways it sets an example to the rest of Europe and to the world,” Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday, during which he presented his human rights report on Germany, based on his visits across the country in April and May.
He commended the work of nongovernmental organizations and expressed gratitude for the voluntary work of many German citizens who tried to help refugees who arrived in the country.
“Unfortunately, there is also a violent minority which is increasingly active in Germany to express its hate in acting on hate. I was told by people working at reception centers that they face regular intimidation by far right activists whenever they open a center,” Muizniek said.
He said that he was very concerned by the rise of racism and intolerance in Germany, which had manifested itself by at least 437 attacks against asylum centers so far this year, more than doubling the number of all last year.
He also warned that xenophobic rallies and clashes had become more common in recent months, especially in places where new refugee housings were opened.
Lessons from NSU murders
Muiznieks called on Germany to improve its fight against racism by drawing lessons from the failures in preventing a series of neo-Nazi murders, committed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) between 2000 and 2007.
“To me the NSU affair demonstrated a systemic failure to see the racist motive in the crimes by many agencies across many federal states over a very long period of time. This to me suggests that there was a structural or institutional failure, and this has not been fully acknowledged or sufficiently addressed,” he said.
He urged German authorities to engage in systematic training of police, prosecutors and judges on racist crimes. He also proposed creation of an independent police complains mechanism.
NSU members killed at least eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek worker and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007 as intelligence and police agencies excluded any racist motive for the murders.
The German public first learned of the group’s existence in November 2011, when two members died after an unsuccessful bank robbery.
Germany’s domestic intelligence chief warned Tuesday that the recent refugee influx had led to an anti-immigrant climate in the country which might lead to an emergence of new far-right terrorist groups.
“Right wing extremists see the refugee problem as a great opportunity for gaining ground among the main stream; they try to play on the fears and concerns of the citizens, especially citizens who are the neighbors of the refugee camps,” Dr. Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the domestic intelligence BfV, had said.
Germany expects a record 800,000 asylum applications this year, four times the last year's total.
Bild daily reported this week that around 230,000 asylum seekers came to Germany between September 5 and 27, nearing the figures for the whole of 2014, when 280,000 arrived.
The surge in asylum applications has been exploited by far-right and populist parties recent months, which organized weekly rallies against immigration and refugees across Germany.