Trial begins of young refugees who ‘tried to set homeless man on fire’

A group of six young refugees went on trial for attempted murder on Tuesday, after one of them tried to set fire to a homeless man in a Berlin U-Bahn station on Christmas Eve.

Trial begins of young refugees who 'tried to set homeless man on fire'
The incident occurred at Schönleinstraße station in Kreuzberg. Photo: DPA

At the start of the trial in Berlin, the 21-year-old main defendant wiped away tears as the prosecution read out the charge of attempted murder.

The six other defendants, between the ages of 16 and 21, sat motionless as the prosecution charged that they had “malevolently and cruelly” attempted to kill a man.

On Christmas Eve the seven young men, six of whom are refugees from Syria, one of whom is from Libya, were caught on CCTV camera as the 21-year-old lit a tissue and placed it directly next to the 37-year-old Polish man’s head as he slept on a bench in a Berlin underground station.

The group then all ran into an underground train and left the scene.

The Polish man had a cover over his head and was using his rucksack as a pillow. Both rucksack and cover caught light and started to burn.

“Within seconds a huge fire could have broken out,” prosecutor Martin Glage told journalists during a pause in the proceedings. He added that tests done by investigators proved that the burning tissue had the potential to set the man's clothing alight.

Luckily passengers who got out of the train were able to put out the flames.

Six of the seven young men are now charged with attempted murder, while the seventh is accused of denial of help.

Glage accused the youths of accepting that their actions could have led to the 37-year-old “tortuously burning”. But he conceded to journalists that he did not believe that the youths expected their actions to lead to the man’s death, and said he was not calling for life sentences.

The 21-year-old’s lawyer said it was a “misrepresentation” to say that his client had freely accepted that the victim could die.

The young men are yet to make statements to the court. But the 21-year-old told police during interrogations that, while he did light the tissue, he did not know what happened to it.

In recent months there have been similar arson attacks on homeless people. In Hamburg a 49-year-old homeless man’s sleeping bag was set alight in April. In February meanwhile, the sleeping area of two homeless men was set on fire in a parking lot, also in the port city.

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EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected]