For several weeks there has been increased violence in a refugee accommodation and criminal offenses in public in Freiburg. The problem appears to be small groups of North African refugees. Authorities are now explaining why – and what they want to do about it.

For about a month, a group of refugees, mainly from North Africa, has been causing a stir in Freiburg im Breisgau with repeated outbreaks of violence and theft. According to the police, the number of crimes, which is skyrocketing, as well as mass brawls, are said to be related, among other things, to a significantly increased occupancy of the state initial reception facility (LEA).

So far, the outbreaks of violence have only affected mass brawls in the refugee home, which is located about two kilometers southwest of Freiburg’s old town. On the penultimate weekend in January, the riots in the LEA triggered a total of five major police operations – within just 15 hours.

According to the Freiburg police, several people were injured and employees of the initial reception center were threatened by North African residents and police officers spat on. The group of violent criminals is “only a very small circle of people,” quotes the “Badische Zeitung” Peter Kramer, head of the department for refugee affairs at the regional council. “But they’re taking us to our limits.”

According to the police, violent disputes arose between refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and North African countries. Several suspects were subsequently taken into custody. Dozens of men are said to have attacked each other in the LEA with poles and knives, among other things. Several people suffered cuts and bruises. Because the situation was unclear at times, police units from all over the city and federal police officers had to be called in.

Just one day before the tumult weekend, the Freiburg authorities also reported a “sudden increase” in the number of thefts of high-value goods in the city. The thefts were mainly committed in downtown department stores.

The police found it striking that the thefts were committed “in particular” by young men who came from the North African region and had only been in Freiburg for a few days. The security authorities name high-quality clothing or perfumes as the preferred stolen goods.

Often the crimes are “committed by several perpetrators together”. This was intended to distract shop detectives or prevent them from discovering and observing crimes. In other cases, the perpetrators would steal from customers who are focused on their purchases and take cell phones or wallets from their pockets, the police report.

Since last week, the Freiburg district court has also been hearing a case in which the accusation is even aggravated robbery and robbery in combination with bodily harm. In the dock: two Algerians aged 23 and 29 who lived in the LEA. They are accused of threatening a woman with a knife at a Freiburg tram stop in autumn 2021 and snatching her handbag and mobile phone. Then they are said to have pushed another victim from behind to the ground and snatched his backpack.

As a result of the recent outbreaks of violence at the LEA, eleven of the residents who have become conspicuous have been transferred to other initial reception facilities in the state in the past week, according to the Freiburg regional council. In addition, after a crisis meeting with the police headquarters, the public prosecutor’s office announced that it would examine “in all suitable cases” whether Section 417 of the Code of Criminal Procedure could be applied, said senior public prosecutor Michael Mächtel.

If the legal requirements are met, this legal instrument allows for accelerated criminal proceedings. Lars Petersen, judge at the Freiburg district court, told the “Badische Zeitung” that two weeks before Christmas the number of such proceedings against residents of the LEA had increased dramatically.

It was only in October that the Freiburg municipal council decided to increase the capacity of the LEA from 400 to 1,200. According to the regional council, around 750 people are currently staying there – mainly from Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria and the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

The regional council includes an increase in the number of security personnel in the LEA and “tightened entrance controls”, explained Freiburg’s regional president Bärbel Schäfer. In addition, greater emphasis should be placed on preventing violence in the refugee home.

When asked by FOCUS online, a police spokesman said that “tumults” like the penultimate weekend in January had never occurred again. “But there are still isolated cases of violent clashes,” said the spokesman. The presence of the police in the LEA therefore remains high.

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