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Germans stage pro-migrant rally with 'refugees welcome' banners in response to violence

It comes as Theresa May said the EU should adopt a tougher approach on migration

Adam Withnall
Sunday 30 August 2015 12:26 BST
Protesters demonstrate with a banner saying 'Refugees welcome' in Dresden, eastern Germany, on Saturday 29 August
Protesters demonstrate with a banner saying 'Refugees welcome' in Dresden, eastern Germany, on Saturday 29 August (AP)

Thousands of Germans have attended a pro-immigration rally in the eastern city of Dresden, displaying banners with the slogan "refugees welcome".

Organisers said the protest, called by the Anti-Nazi Alliance, was attended by 5,000 people angry at the attacks on asylum seekers and police in Heidenau, near Dresden, last weekend.

That violence saw 31 police officers injured and migrant buses pelted with projectiles, and a brief ban on public assembly was imposed. At Saturday's counter-protest, marchers said they were acting to "prevent the pogroms of tomorrow".

Protesters demonstrate with a banner saying 'Refugees welcome' in Dresden, eastern Germany, on Saturday 29 August (AP)

"Refugees welcome" has become a powerful slogan as the EU migrant crisis has worsened. It has been displayed by singing sections of fans at football grounds in Germany at least since this time two years ago.

Football and immigration are strongly linked in many parts of Germany, where clubs offer mentorship and other programmes designed to encourage better integration. In Berlin, an organisation seeking to prevent refugees from being marginalised goes by the name "kein Abseits!" - "not offside".

It’s just one of the ways in which Germany is leading the EU on how to respond to the influx of unprecedented numbers of refugees, after the country scrapped a rule stating that all asylum-seekers must do so in the first “safe” nation they reach in Europe.

That 1990 protocol has led to what many European countries see as an unfair pressure on places like Italy, Greece or Hungary where migrants tend to arrive first.

On Friday, Angela Merkel said EU interior ministers meeting this weekend would be looking at “rapid changes to the asylum system”.

“There has to be a fair distribution of refugees and asylum seekers who are deemed eligible,” she said.

Germany expects to have processed some 800,000 migrants by the end of this year, and Denmark’s Prime Minister Loekke Rasmussen said the rest of Europe needed to follow its example.

Meanwhile, France criticised Hungary and other eastern European states over their responses to the migrant crisis, saying they were “not respecting Europe’s common values”.

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday it was “scandalous” that some nations were refusing to accept “people who are politically chased out of their country”.

“In particular eastern European states,” Fabius said. “They are extremely harsh. Hungary is part of Europe, which has values and we do not respect those value by putting up fences.”

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