Dubbed the “problem house” by the Ruhr Valley city's press, the eight-floor building in western Germany is officially home to 139 residents, mostly Roma. Police believe there are many more crammed into the 46 flats, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.
Despite squalid conditions inside and out, one resident said he paid €300 per month for a two-room flat which the magazine said was indescribably horrid. He had come to Germany from Romania - travelling within the European Union - in search of a better life.
But, due to the labour ban still imposed on people coming to Germany from Romania and Bulgaria, none of those setting up home in Germany are allowed to work legally. This leaves people living in places like the Duisburg building bored, impoverished and disappointed.
Duisburg police documents seen by Der Spiegel stated that neighbours had “understandably” complained about the Roma living in the building.
“The houses are rubbish-strewn, the area around them a complete mess and the standard of hygiene unacceptable,” the report said. It added that residents were often spotted going to the toilet outdoors.
People living nearby have become increasingly hostile and even aggressive towards the people living in the building. Police files talk of young local Turks chasing the Roma, while one man living in the building said none of the nearby shop owners would serve him.
And although the public have not been informed, Der Spiegel said that a few weeks ago, a group of three or four masked men armed with sticks and knuckle-dusters attacked a group of five young Roma in a park. "It is to be assumed that this was a targeted attack by young Turkish-heritage men on equally young Roma of Romanian nationality," the magazine quoted a police report.
Hundreds of others watched and some were cheering on the attack, the officer wrote. He described the background to the attack as probably, "the stronger and unregulated growth of the Roma group and the associated nuisance."
The building is owned by a man identified only as Branko B., by the magazine. He is said to be a leading figure in the city's red light district and owns at least one brothel.
“I have never been [to the building], I leave it down to my manager,” Branko B. told Der Spiegel.