For the past seven weeks, activists protesting Germany’s immigration policy and the spread of Islam in the West have been marching each Monday in Dresden, a city in eastern Germany. In response, counter-protests have been organised to denounce rampant xenophobia. As tensions between the two groups increase, the situation is quickly heading towards a face-off. Read more…
Only about a hundred participants came to the first protest organised seven weeks ago by the group calling itself “European Patriots against the Islamisation of the West” (or PEGIDA). Since then, the movement has quickly gained momentum, with an estimated 7,000 people attending the protest held on Monday. However, the opposition to these far right gatherings has also been gaining in numbers. On the same day, 1,200 people, most of them left-wing activists, joined a counter-protest.
In the past year, there have been numerous protests against the influence of Islam on German society. On October 26, about 4000 “hooligans” and far -right activists joined a protest called “Hooligans against Salafists,” which was organised in Cologne by an Islamophobic group.
Growing suspicion towards Islam has also contributed to an increased hostility towards asylum seekers, the majority of whom come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2014, Germany saw more than 200 protests against asylum seekers and 86 attacks against reception centres for this population.
Manuel Tripp, an activist from the National Democratic Party contacted by FRANCE 24, explained that he joined the PEGIDA protest in Dresden because he wanted to “support a movement that is fighting against mass immigration to Europe and that wants to preserve European identity.” According to Tripp, the PEGIDA is “not against Islam itself, but against the Islamisation of the West.”
Germany is the top destination in Europe for asylum seekers. Since the beginning of the year, the country has accepted a record 25,646 asylum seekers out of a total 158,000 asylum claims. In 2013, 20,100 asylum seekers were accepted out of 127,000 total claims. On November 6, the parliament voted to increase the benefits given to refugees while their asylum claim is under consideration. Nevertheless, the German government is facing a growing shortage of housing for refugees.