German immigration policies: rallies, riots, death

German immigration policies have seen left and right wing groups clashing in sometimes violent protests in several major cities.

Thousands of people rallied on Sunday to demand the country help with missions to rescue migrants stranded at sea.

The demonstrations, organised by a range of Catholic and Protestant civic groups, were part of a Europe-wide week of protests under the banner “Build Bridges, Not Walls.”

Demonstrations organised by the “Seebrücke” (Sea Bridge) rights group saw rallies gathering thousands of protesters as they marched through Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and Duisburg.

In addition, about 5,000 protesters gathered along Hamburg’s sea ports, with 10,000 others joining as the crowd marched past the grounds of St Pauli, the local football club famous for its working-class left-wing support.

The Seebrücke group says it has sent a petition to Berlin’s senate, urging the city to take in migrants rescued at sea. The city should do all it can to “provide visas and residency rights to those rescued,” the group says.

“We must not allow refugees to drown at sea, nor must we allow them to be mobbed and beaten up,” Hamburg’s Protestant bishop Kirsten Fehrs told the pro-migrant rally.

“If we let this happen, we will be on our way to barbarity.”

Europe is obliged to establish safe and legal escape routes from Africa to the continent, Fehrs says.

“Politics must not be exempt of empathy.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is the president of the German bishops’ conference, is urging Christians to counter “nationalism, injustice and the restriction of freedom” with “vigilance and political action.”

“We have to look at how people speak, how some nations fall back into nationalism, and how warlike language is trumpeted again,” Marx says.

“As Christians, we know where we have to stand. The Catholic social gospel must be applied to concrete historical times, with its fundamental principles of human dignity, freedom, justice for all and commitment to peace and reconciliation.”

For many, Sunday’s marches offered an opportunity to respond to last week’s far-right demonstrators who, fueled by rage and violence, clashed with pro-immigrant, anti-fascist counter-demonstrators in the eastern German city of Chemnitz on Saturday 25 August.

The riots erupted after a German man was killed in a brawl with migrants.


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