A small group of police officers traveled to an asylum center in Ellwangen, Germany Monday to arrest a 23-year-old man from Togo. Authorities had determined the man would need to be sent back to Italy to apply for asylum there because it was the first EU nation he had set foot in. The man was located and handcuffed but when police tried to remove him from the asylum center a group which eventually grew to 150 other immigrants began threatening the officers. From the Independent:
According to local reports there was little prospect of backup as other police units would have taken several hours to arrive.
The large group of migrants reportedly surrounded the patrol cars and threatened the police. “They were so aggressive and threatened us more and more, so we had to leave the man behind and retreat to the gate [of the refugee facility],” one officer said, adding that there was some damage to the cars.The migrants then sent a messenger to the police, bearing an ultimatum: that they had to remove the handcuffs from the Congolese national within two minutes, or that they would storm the gate.
The police decided to give the security guard at the refugee facility a key to release the man.
So they not only left their man behind, they left their cars and, finally, a key to the handcuffs. But having fled the center Monday night, hundreds of officers returned to the same asylum center Thursday and, this time arrested the man from Togo. From Deutsche Welle:
German police sought to re-establish their authority by force at a home for asylum-seekers in the small town of Ellwangen, in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, after a large and extraordinary operation on Thursday morning.
A 23-year-old from Togo — whose deportation to Italy was prevented by a group of between 150 and 200 asylum-seekers in the early hours of Monday morning — was recaptured during the operation.
Twenty-seven asylum-seekers offered resistance during Thursday’s police action, which involved hundreds of armed officers. Some asylum-seekers were injured jumping out of windows…
“We will not allow any law-free zones to be established,” Bernhard Weber, vice president of the local police force, said at a press conference on Thursday morning.
It’s not just the local police who are upset over what happened. Monday’s incident created a “media conflagration” in Germany according to DW. In response, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer promised to speed up deportations of those whose asylum claims had been rejected. From the Associated Press:
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer vowed he would do everything he could to clamp down on illegal immigration, speed up asylum procedures and deport rejected asylum-seekers as quickly as possible.
“What happened (in Ellwangen) was a slap in the face of the law-abiding population,” Seehofer — who is well-known for his law-and-order stance — told reporters in Berlin.
“The right to hospitality cannot be trampled on like that,” he added, promising that security authorities would “use all their force and determination” to prosecute those asylum-seekers who blocked police from executing the deportation Monday in Ellwangen.
Seehofer is a member of the ruling coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel but he has been critical of her immigration policies before. Supposedly police had made arrests at this asylum center hundreds of times before without incident. But the Local reports that police are no investigating whether the mob action to prevent deportation witnessed Monday was part of a plan:
Police are also investigating evidence that the migrants at the centre had a concerted plan to prevent all deportations through collective action.
“Since there were serious statements from the migrants that if the police reappeared, they would not only defend themselves in a similar manner, they would also prepare by arming themselves,” officials during the operation sought to find “weapons and dangerous objects,” the police said on Thursday.
Whether weapons have been found in the refugee home has not been confirmed.
Even if the mob action wasn’t planned, this seems like a fairly dangerous precedent since there are asylum centers like this one place all around Germany.