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Mob cheers as fire damages refugee home in eastern Germany

Published 21/02/2016

A fire has damaged a former hotel that was being converted into a refugee home in Germany
A fire has damaged a former hotel that was being converted into a refugee home in Germany

A fire has damaged a former hotel that was being converted into a refugee home in Saxony, eastern Germany, as bystanders celebrated, police said.

The incident comes days after a mob in the same state blocked a bus carrying asylum seekers.

The blaze in the roof of the building in Bautzen broke out overnight. Police said no-one was injured, but that a group of people gathered outside, some of them "commenting with derogatory remarks or unashamed joy" on the fire.

Police ordered three people to leave the scene because they were hampering firefighters' work, detaining two of them, whom they described as intoxicated 20-year-old locals.

Authorities believe the fire was caused by arson, but they are investigating every possibility, senior regional police official Bernd Merbitz said.

While the majority of Germans have been welcoming toward refugees, a vocal minority has staged protests in front of refugee homes, especially in the east, and the country last year saw a surge in violence against such lodgings.

Saxony is home to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration group Pegida.

Across the state in Clausnitz, a mob screaming "We are the people" and "Go home" blocked a bus carrying asylum seekers outside a new refugee home on Thursday.

Police drew criticism in that case for roughly hauling some migrants off the bus into the building, which they insist was necessary to prevent the situation from escalating.

Saxony governor Stanislaw Tillich described the two incidents as "appalling and shocking" and described the perpetrators as "criminals".

"This is abhorrent and disgusting," Mr Tillich said in an interview with the Funke newspaper group. He pledged that authorities will investigate and "bring everyone responsible to account".

Germany's justice minister, Heiko Maas, wrote on Twitter that anyone who applauds as buildings burn or who intimidates refugees "acts abominably and abhorrently".

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