German police defend migrant bus action

Anti-migrant banner in German town of Clausnitz, 20 February 2016Image copyright

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Some residents strongly oppose housing migrants in the village

German police have defended their response to an incident involving a bus full of migrants which was surrounded by chanting protesters.

A video posted online shows some 100 hostile demonstrators surrounding the bus as it pulls up to deliver migrants to accommodation in eastern Germany.

Another appears to show police roughly dragging a young boy off the vehicle.

Police said they needed to get the migrants into the hostel quickly as the situation was tense.

The incident took place on Thursday night in the eastern village of Clausnitz, south of Dresden, and the video footage from the scene has been widely shared online.

Demonstrators tried to prevent migrants getting off the bus, chanting “we are the people” in a scene the state Interior Minister, Markus Ulbig, described as “deeply shameful”.

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Migrant accommodation in Clausnitz – the Saxony authorities are also investigating the incident

Upset children can be seen in the video on board the bus, which was blocked for two hours.

Defending the police response, regional police chief Uwe Reissmann said on Saturday that there were too few officers to keep the protesters away from the bus and it was necessary to get the migrants into the building quickly.

He said three of those inside the bus had provoked the crowd – one “showing the finger” to the protesters.

Referring to the removal of the boy, Mr Reissmann said “only physical force” could ensure his transfer to the hostel.

“In my opinion, the police should not face repercussions,” he said at a news conference.

The boy and a youth from the bus face an investigation over the “finger” incident, Mr Reissmann added.

Those on board the vehicle were the first refugees to be accommodated at the shelter in the village.

In a further development, German media report that the head of the migrant shelter in Clausnitz, Thomas Hetze, spoke at a recent anti-immigrant rally.

He was invited to the Freiberg gathering by the right-wing Alternative fuer Deutschland party (Alternative for Germany), according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German).

Local officials are quoted as saying there is no problem so long as he has not broken the law.

The slogan which the protesters chanted on Thursday in Clausnitz, “we are the people” (“Wir sind das Volk”), was used in the peaceful demonstrations against the dictatorship in East Germany which preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The historic slogan has since been used – misused, according to German President and Communist-era civil rights activist Joachim Gauck – by the anti-Islam Pegida protesters in Germany.

Germany received over a million asylum claims in 2015.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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