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Bystanders celebrate as fire damages refugee home in Germany

Suspected arson in eastern state of Saxony, home to anti-immigration group Pegida

Banners left by people opposed to the attack next to the burnt-out remains of a former hotel that was to serve as a shelter for 300 refugees following a fire early on Sunday morning in Bautzen, Germany. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

A fire has damaged a former hotel that was being converted into a refugee home in Saxony, eastern Germany, as bystanders celebrated, police said. The incident comes days after a mob in the same state blocked a bus carrying asylum seekers.

The fire in the roof of the building in Bautzen broke out overnight. Police said no one was injured, but that a group of people gathered outside, some of them “commenting with derogatory remarks or unashamed joy” on the fire.

Police ordered three people to leave the scene because they were hampering firefighters’ work, detaining two of them, whom they described as intoxicated 20-year-old locals.

Authorities believe the fire was caused by arson, but they are investigating every possibility, police official Bernd Merbitz said.

While the majority of Germans have been welcoming toward refugees, a vocal minority has staged protests in front of refugee homes, especially in the east, and the country last year saw a surge in violence against such lodgings. Saxony is home to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration group Pegida.

Across the state in Clausnitz a mob blocked a bus carrying asylum seekers outside a new refugee home on Thursday. Police drew criticism for roughly hauling some migrants off the bus into the building, which they said was necessary to prevent the situation from escalating.

– (PA)