Far-right racist terror surges in Europe as Austrian neo-Nazi who threatened to massacre refugees is arrested

Mass refugee influx and economic crisis are fueling the growth of racist attacks and Europe's nationalist far-right

Published June 1, 2016 7:30PM (EDT)

Right-wing protesters at an anti-immigration demonstration organized by the racist movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, or Pegida, in Dresden, Germany on October 19, 2015  (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch)
Right-wing protesters at an anti-immigration demonstration organized by the racist movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, or Pegida, in Dresden, Germany on October 19, 2015 (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch)

The far-right is surging throughout the West. Persistent economic crisis and unpopular austerity measures that gut social spending, in conjunction with the mass influx of refugees, have given rise to ultra-nationalist and even neo-fascist movements in Europe.

Racist, right-wing terror is exploding on the continent, and the climate of increasing xenophobia is fueling attacks on refugees who are fleeing Western-backed wars.

In Germany, more than 1,100 attacks on refugee shelters and asylum-seekers were registered with the government in the first five months of 2016.

On Friday, May 27, police in Austria arrested a suspected neo-Nazi who allegedly threatened to massacre refugees seeking asylum in the country, AFP reported.

The 20-year-old suspected Nazi “repeatedly told friends that he wanted to ‘shoot dead all asylum-seekers with his shotgun’ at a refugee center,” Upper Austria police said.

He also used neo-Nazi language and sent a friend text messages that included “National Socialist ideology,” they added.

Police raided his home and found several weapons and ammunition. They also found wartime Nazi memorabilia.

Less than a week before, on Sunday, May 22, a man with neo-Nazi links went on a rampage at a concert in western Austria. He killed two people and injured 12 more before shooting himself.

The shooter had previously been active in the fascist skinhead scene, and had several assault convictions and was banned from owning weapons. This previous attack did not appear to be linked to anti-refugee racism, but it is part of a larger explosion of extreme right-wing violence throughout the West.

Much of this violence is linked to anti-refugee sentiment.

In 2015, Austria received approximately 90,000 asylum requests, the second highest per capita in the E.U.

Nearly 1 million refugees and migrants passed through Austria, however, on their way toward Germany and Scandinavia. Germany accepted more than 1 million refugees in 2015 alone.

Most refugees are fleeing Western-backed wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and more.

This influx of refugees has helped fuel the rise of far-right movements like Austria's Freedom Party and Germany's Pegida movement.

The Freedom Party, which narrowly lost Austria's presidential election in May, is historically linked to Nazis. And the Pegida movement, which began in Germany and has since spread throughout Europe, was founded by a man who dresses up like Hitler for fun.

Anti-refugee violence is off the charts in Germany. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière warned on Monday that there has been a “brutalization” of society.

In the first five months of 2016, 449 attacks on refugee shelters were registered, 82 of which were violent. Another 654 crimes against asylum-seekers were registered, 107 of which were violent.

In France, armed far-right militias attacked asylum-seekers in the Calais refugee camp. The refugees said police refused to stop the violence, and even carried out attacks of their own. The French government later ordered the destruction of the refugee camp.

There have been similar surges in right-wing racist violence in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland and more.

As far-right movements grow in Western political systems — with the Freedom Party in Austria and Pegida in Germany, along with the National Front in France, the English Defense League in the U.K., Jobbik in Hungary, the Danish People's Party in Denmark, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Golden Dawn in Greece and the Republican Party under Donald Trump in the U.S., with its concomitant paramilitaries operating on the border — right-wing extremists have been increasingly emboldened to carry out acts of terror, often with impunity.

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

MORE FROM Ben Norton

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Austria Europe Germany Hate Crimes Racism Refugee Crisis Refugees Xenophobia