A fire destroyed clothing donations for Turkish and Syrian earthquake victims, in what is suspected to be an arson attack in Germany.
In the German city of Recklinghausen, on Monday, arsonists were seen in online video footage breaking into a supermarket where clothes had been stored for earthquake victims in Turkiye and Syria, provided and collected by volunteers. The arsonists then burnt the clothes, which were estimated to be worth thousands of dollars.
The man who runs the store, Vijay Raj, told local media that “Our dreams of donating these clothes and funds were shattered when two young boys of European descent came into the supermarket and set it on fire.”
It has not been confirmed whether the attack was politically or racially motivated, but there are suspicions that it may have been, as Raj and his staff “also found two Turkish flags that we had hung thrown into the flames and burnt with the donation”.
Following the incident, he said, “We were all very sad. Some of us cried because we spent hours arranging the donations and putting together care packages … But because we are a community, people came together after the fire to salvage what we can and, thank God, the arsonists didn’t reach this back section where we had already packed some packages.”
Raj and his store have decided to no longer accept any material donations, such as clothes, for the earthquake victims, instead asking for people to donate money which he will pass on to charities dealing with the victims on the ground.
The attack took place at a time when Germany – with a population of around 2.9 million Turks and around 924,000 Syrians – announced that it would offer temporary visas to relatives of existing Turkish migrants and Syrian refugees, in order to provide them a place to stay away from the areas affected by the earthquakes in south-east Turkiye and north-west Syria.
German Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser, who spoke to the Bild newspaper on Saturday, called it “emergency aid”, stating that “We want to allow Turkish or Syrian families in Germany to bring their close relatives from the disaster area to their homes without bureaucracy.”
While the German government holds that stance in an echo of the open-door policies of the previous government under former Chancellor Angela Merkel, there is, however, a rise of far-right and anti-migrant or refugee sentiment throughout the country.
It is reportedly so prevalent that, in December, German security forces arrested 25 far-right members who were suspected of plotting a coup to overthrow the government.