On Tuesday, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), an office belonging to the German Ministry of Interior Affairs, confirmed that the so-called Dublin regulation, which states that asylum seekers must have their applications processed in the EU country in which they first arrive or else face deportation, would no longer apply to Syrian nationals for the present time. Germany has not suspended the whole protocol—only in cases concerning asylum seekers from Syria.
In response, messages have appeared this week from Syrians taking to Twitter to post pictures of Merkel with captions such as ‘We love you’ and ‘We love Germany’. One Facebook user wrote: “We will tell our children that Syrian migrants fled their country to come to Europe when Mecca and Muslim lands were closer to them”, according to the BBC.
The outpouring comes in stark contrast to the reception Merkel was given when she visited a government migrant shelter in the small town of Heidenau, near the city of Dresden on Wednesday. As she emerged from her car, she was booed, and there were shouts of “traitor” and “we are the vermin” from far-right protesters in the crowd.
Merkel’s visit followed days of unrest in the town, after protesters tried to block asylum seekers from entering a government shelter at the weekend. The protests, organised by the far-Right National Democratic Party (NPD), began peacefully on Friday night, but descended into violence lasting through the weekend, leaving 30 police officers injured.
The chancellor told reporters in Heidenau, “There is no tolerance for those people who question the dignity of others, no tolerance for those who are not willing to help where legal and human help is required.”
The violence is just the latest in a string of violent incidents this year in response to the growing numbers of those arriving in Germany having fled war and instability in countries like Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan. The German interior minister announced last week that the country expects a total of 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times as many as last year.
Last month, 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. On Wednesday, a refugee centre was destroyed by fire in the town of Nauen, just outside Berlin, in what many locals believe to have been a deliberate act.
On Wednesday, at a cabinet meeting, the German government announced that an additional 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) would be made available to districts struggling to cope with asylum seekers, with more to follow.
Meanwhile, the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has accused EU governments of not doing enough to take their share of the burden. “What we need, and what we are sadly still lacking, is the collective courage to follow through on our commitments even when they are not easy; even when they are not popular,” he wrote in German newspaper Die Welt and French newspaper Le Figaro at the weekend. “Instead what I see is finger-pointing – a tired blame game which… is not actually solving any problems.”
The EU border agency, Frontex said last week that a record 107,000 migrants arrived at European land and sea borders in July.