A 21-year-old man allegedly shot and “lightly wounded” two children living at a refugee shelter in Germany, according to the Agence France‑Presse.
The man aimed at a nearby refugee shelter with his air rifle from his third-floor apartment during the shooting, according to the publication. The mother of the 5-year-old Macedonian girl who was shot said that she initially thought someone had thrown a stone or sand at her. Another witness saw the suspect shoot an 18-year-old Syrian refugee in the leg.
Police, who responded to the scene, searched the man’s apartment and found an air rifle and ammunition. However, the suspect was not detained because “there were no grounds for arrest,” a police spokesperson told AFP.
“It is unclear if the act was politically motivated,” the police said, adding that the investigation was ongoing.
Refugees and asylum seekers — both of whom are seeking humanitarian relief to permanently stay in their host countries — are becoming increasingly common targets of unprovoked assaults in Germany. Many of those applicants come from Africa and the Middle East where they are leaving behind conflict, poverty, and persecution.
Among some of the more prominent incidents, people allegedly “cheered and clapped as a refugee shelter went up in flames after a suspected arson attack,” the BBC reported in February. In January, someone threw a live hand grenade into a shelter in the southern town of Villingen-Schwenningen, though it failed to detonate. And in August 2015, arsonists scorched a newly renovated apartment building meant to house dozens of asylum seekers.
Such attacks undercut Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense to welcome refugees last year, instead highlighting the unease and racism that residents feel over the influx of refugee and asylum seekers. Nowhere is the tension felt more strongly than in places once a part of communist East Germany. These areas are influenced by 25 years of neo-Nazi culture “that is completely white. Sometimes the response is pure racism,” Anetta Kahane, chairwoman of the pro-refugee Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Berlin, told the Washington Post last year.
Even acts of kindness don’t necessarily shift these attitudes. In March, Stefan Jagsch, a German neo-Nazi leader, was allegedly saved by Syrian refugees after his car hit a tree. On social media, Jagsch initially thanked “all of those who were there to help me,” but then cast doubt on media reports saying that he “can therefore neither confirm nor deny that a Syrian refugee had helped me out of the car.” He later took the post down from Facebook.
Local governments and law enforcement officials have repeatedly failed to get involved in xenophobic attacks against refugees, in spite of a spike over the past three years. There were 16 times more attacks on asylum shelters in 2015 than there were in 2013. And racist, violent crimes against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities also increased to 1,295 attacks in 2015, or 87 percent more than in 2013, according to a recent Amnesty International report.