Part of the way we in Germany see ourselves is that every individual who comes to our country must be treated with dignity and humanity, said the Chancellor. That is one of the things that sets Germany apart from other countries, she stressed following her visit to a refugee centre in Heidenau.
The Chancellor used her visit to talk to refugees, security staff, volunteers and full-time helpers. She was accompanied by Saxony’s state premier Stanislaw Tillich and Heidenau’s Mayor, Jürgen Opitz. Jeering protestors greeted the Chancellor.
Last weekend saw violent clashes outside a refugee shelter in the town of Heidenau in Saxony. Protesters are said to have threatened asylum-seekers and attacked police officers. About 575 people are currently housed in the shelter.
Everyone who is the victim of political persecution or who is fleeing civil war is entitled to request asylum in Germany or to be recognised as a civil war refugee stressed Angela Merkel.
The Chancellor described the violence at the weekend as "shameful" and "abhorrent". She responded to the protests and jeers of some demonstrators, saying, "We will make every effort to make it clear that Germany will help where help is needed." And that must now be translated into practice.
To master the challenges, said the Chancellor, federal, state and local governments must work together effectively. In September legislation is to be modified to meet the new situation. "We are facing a huge challenge which we can only master if we share the will to break new ground together."
Angela Merkel thanked the numerous volunteers in action and the staff of the German Red Cross and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) for the job they are doing in Heidenau. "Within only a few days this initial reception centre has been established. There is a will here to improve the conditions and to process applications swiftly, and that is what we must all work together to achieve."
The Chancellor praised the work of the aid organisations. "I think we can be proud that we have this aid organisation set-up in Germany, with the Red Cross and the THW." It is also very encouraging that so many people have realised that help is needed and have become involved. "As Chancellor I would like to see the entire government, the federal states and the local authorities together tackling and managing this enormous task although it will require exceptional efforts from all of us."
Looking back to the riots at the weekend the Chancellor called on citizens to stand up and prevent attacks on refugees. "There can be zero tolerance for those who call into question the dignity of others," she said. There can also be zero tolerance for those who are not prepared to help where help is needed legally and on the basis of humanity, she added. The more people make this absolutely clear, "the stronger we will be and the better we will be able to manage the work ahead."
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel visited Heidenau on Monday on behalf of the German government "We must not allow this radical right-wing mob to gain one single millimetre," he declared. Anyone chanting radical slogans or hurling fire-bombs deserves only one answer. "You are not one of us". Nobody can afford to look the other way.
At the same time Sigmar Gabriel pledged support from the federal government. "We, the federal government, must now do all we can to let the states use our properties swiftly and without complications, so that temporary solutions don’t become permanent," said the Federal Economic Affairs Minister.