Germany is once again in the midst of massive anti-immigration rallies, which are often met with counter-marches, dividing the country in two.
The latest demonstrations saw thousands of right-wing protesters expressing anger over the influx of refugees.
Around 10,000 members of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against Western Islamization) marched through, Dresden, Germany, where the group was founded. The crowds decried the tidal wave of migrants coming to Europe and, in particular, the arrival of Muslim refugees en masse in Germany.
Meanwhile, the group and their opponents also organized rival rallies in Munich, with an estimated 300 PEGIDA supporters attending.
Scuffles with police broke out during similar marches in the German capital of Berlin.
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The massive protests began after Germany’s decision to take in a larger number of refugees this year triggered a furious response from far-right groups.
“We don’t see the refugees as bad, we blame politicians for flooding Germany with large number of mainly young Muslim males. The government is taking irresponsible risks, since no one can predict how they will behave in the future,” a protester in Berlin told RT.
“They allow people without papers, without anything, by the thousands to come into this country. They could be murderers, could be criminals, it should be forbidden,” another activist from Munich said.
Others stood up for the refugees coming into the country. “I am here because I am very much active against these PEGIDA people here. This is really not the time, not the place to make such demonstration,” said a protester in Munich. “I think it is the fear of the people. The world overall is getting worse and worse and it is the fear to lose wealth,” said another marcher.
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Many seemed terrified by the number of people crossing their borders. “If we allow this to go on, we will get two million refugees or asylum migrants. Next year, five million. And then we get the whole of Africa,” according to one demonstrator.
Germany, a nation of 80 million people, could see up to 800,000 asylum seekers applying for refugee status by the end of 2015, according to estimates by authorities. Over 410,000 people have registered on its initial registration system since January, and more than 100,000 refugees and migrants were accepted in August alone.
Germany has seen a spike in hate crimes against refugees following the immigration influx. A lot of far-right anger has surrounded Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to suspend the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that migrants can only claim asylum at a German port of entry.
Merkel has essentially permitted officers to process applications of asylum seekers even if they had travelled through other EU countries first.
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Refugees seeking asylum and a promising future in Germany first need to pass through Hungary, which has created a very tense situation in the Central European country. The Hungarian Defense Minister resigned after a national Security Council meeting was held to deal with the tide of people arriving at the country’s borders.
On Friday night, Hungary finally deployed dozens of buses to transport thousands of the migrants to the Austrian border after Vienna agreed with Germany on asylum rules to allow migrants access. A day earlier, Hungarian police had permitted hundreds of migrants to enter Budapest’s main railway station, but all trains bound for Western Europe were subsequently cancelled by the authorities, causing chaos.
Hundreds of people, many of whom are fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East, took a waiting train by storm, trying to push kids through open windows, in hopes of being allowed to continue their journey west to Austria and Germany.
While some sympathized with the refugees’ plight, with volunteers bringing food and other supplies, others were outraged and disgusted by the mayhem the predominantly-male migrant crowds left behind. Local anti-refugee social media pages like “Győr NEM Afrika” (“Gyor is not Africa”) posted photos of what they said was the aftermath of the migrants’ passing and described their behavior as uncivilized, discriminative towards their own women, as well as insincere, alleging that many chose to stage heart rending scenes on camera for the media in what appeared to be a “pre-planned PR action.”
Hungary is now proceeding with the construction of a 3.5 meter-high fence on its southern border with Serbia designed to deter migrants. So far this year, 140,000 migrants and refugees have been caught trying to cross the Hungarian border.