An eastern German city has imposed a temporary ban on new refugees in an effort to stem a number of recent violent incidents.
Cottbus, about 120 kilometres southeast of Berlin, has been rocked by violence from refugees and right-wing extremists since the start of this year.
Earlier this week, Brandenburg state police reported that two male Syrian teenagers were arrested under the suspicion of injuring a German teenager in the face with a knife.
The 16-year-old sustained non life-threatening injuries in what started as an altercation between Syrian and German school acquaintances near a tram station.
The incident happened just days after a group of three Syrian asylum seekers, aged 14, 15 and 17 years old, attacked a man and his wife outside a shopping centre, according to a police statement. The 15-year-old was handed a “negative residency permit” by authorities, effectively ordering him and his father to leave the city.
Cottbus, a small university centre with a population of just over 100,000, has taken in around 3,000 asylum seekers since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis.
Coupled with a sluggish economy, the considerable influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment among locals, and the city is home to one of Germany’s largest right-wing extremist scenes. Authorities counted 145 right-wing radicals living in Cottbus last year.
A community group told local media that a group of neo-Nazis had assaulted refugees on the morning of New Year’s Day, while last weekend a group of around 100 masked neo-Nazis marched in an illegal demonstration through the city centre.
Brandenburg’s state interior minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter told German broadcaster RBB on Friday that the ban on new refugees would be in effect “for the next few months”.
The city will also take further safety measures including increased video surveillance of a central downtown square, a larger presence of both uniformed and plainclothes police officers, as well as adding 10 new social worker positions throughout local schools.
A Cottbus police spokesperson told The Telegraph that officers were being deployed on daily foot patrols of the city from late afternoon to evening “for as long as it serves its purpose… at least over the next two weeks”.
Cottbus is not the first German city to impose a refugee ban.
Last year the towns of Salzgitter, Delmenhorst and Wilhelmshaven in the northern state of Lower Saxony implemented a prohibition.
Local governments said at the time they lacked the capacity and resources to properly integrate more new arrivals.