• Germany's news in English

Police investigate abuse at refugee centres

DPA/The Local · 29 Sep 2014, 11:10

Published: 29 Sep 2014 11:10 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Police released a mobile phone photo of two uniformed guards at a facility in the town of Burbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, standing over a 20-year-old man from Algeria.

One of the guards has his booted foot on the man's neck. He is lying on his chest with his hands cuffed behind him.

Frank Richter, police chief in nearby Hagen, compared the alleged abuse to that suffered by inmates in Guantanamo Bay.

“These are pictures which we would normally associate with Guantanamo. This behaviour makes me very concerned," he said in quotes reported by the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. 

Local authorities in Arnsberg announced they had cancelled the contract with the security firm whose employees were responsible for the accommodation at the former barracks.

A different company has been in charge since midnight on Friday.

“We're sending a clear signal to the companies we pay to protect people in these reception facilities,” district president Gerd Bollerman said in a statement on Sunday.

“Anyone who employs criminals who commit crimes against asylum seekers and bullies them will be got rid of.”

The district also released a seven-point “emergency programme” to protect people in the reception centre.

The German Police Union (DPolG) blamed the violence on the government's outsourcing of reception centre security.

“This is the consequence of the privatization of state functions,” DPolG president Rainer Wendt said. “The jobs end up at sub-sub-contractors with shady employees.”

In future only people who have passed a criminal records check and other tests will be allowed to work at refugee facilities, an Arnsberg district spokeswoman told ZDF television on Sunday evening.

Police have already questioned more than 100 refugees at the site about the abuse out of the 700 living there.

Prosecutors and police are investigating four suspects and following up leads on further cases of abuse.

They said that they have evidence of other incidents involving security guards. Some were found to have forbidden weapons such as truncheons.

The trigger for the probe was a video given to investigators by a journalist on Friday. It shows a refugee being forced to lie down in his own vomit.

Police later found the released photo of the Algerian man being abused on the phone of one of the suspects.

More abuse?

TV broadcaster Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR) reported on a further case of violence against another asylum seeker at a reception centre in Essen. Investigations have started there into three allegations of grevious bodily harm.

Journalists said that they had a copy of a medical report detailing the man's injuries. That reception centre is run by the same security firm which was in charge of the Burbach facility, Nuremberg-based firm SKI Security.

The Burbach reception centre is managed by an Essen-based firm called European Homecare which says on its website it has 20 years experience in managing accommodation for asylum seekers.

European Homecare subcontracted security to SKI and police are investigating SKI employees in both Burbach and Essen.

According to WDR, two of the four security guards being investigated for abuse at the Burbach site were known to police for past offences including bodily harm and drug offences.

But SKI said in a statement on Monday that all of its employees were qualified and vetted in accordance with national guidelines.

"The reported incidents are vile. We are supporting the police and prosecutors who are investigating the identified suspects," the company said. 

European Homecare CEO Sascha Korte said on Monday the company was "concerned and shocked" that such abuses could have happened.

"I'm stunned and ashamed that such assaults have taken place," he added.

Story continues below…

European Homecare has terminated cooperation with SKI, it said in a statement. 


The government in Berlin got involved in the case on Monday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said: “If what is in these images in confirmed, if refugees are being mistreated and degraded, then it would be a sickening act.”

“We won't tolerate any violence against asylum seekers,” North Rhine-Westphalia interior minister Ralf Jäger said.

“Anyone who threatens and victimizes people in need must be punished severely.”

The former barracks in Burbach has been the scene of violence before. In November last year, police were called to reports of a mass brawl on the site involving up to 100 people.

According to police, three people suffered minor injuries.

SEE ALSO: One dead, one injured in asylum home fight

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd