Forty Roma migrants have occupied the cathedral in Regensburg to protest the German government’s classification of the Balkan nations as “safe countries”.
The migrants, who include men, women and children, have occupied the vestibule of the Regensburg cathedral Tuesday afternoon demanding that the German government reexamine its decision to classify the Balkan states as safe countries. The Roma have erected homemade banners and signs demanding that they not be sent back to the Balkans and be allowed to stay in Germany, reports Bavarian broadcaster BR24.de.
The Roma, who have said they are determined to stay in the cathedral until their demands are met, are backed by the left-wing extremist organisation Anti-Fascist Action (Antifa) who have joined them in their protest. The left-wing extremist group is known for their readiness to employ violence against their political opponents and have been alleged to be behind attacks on the anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party at their party conference in Stuttgart earlier this year and on individual members.
Antifa took to Twitter to post a list of demands to the German authorities. In the letter the group claimed to speak for the Roma families saying “some of us are under threat of deportation. Others could be deported right now. With the changes of the last few months, the situation is very bad for us,” adding that in the Balkans they can only expect “racism, persecution and exclusion”. The extremists make it clear that for the Roma migrants “the solution to our problems lies here,” in Germany.
— anita f. (@anitafrgbg) July 5, 2016
The speaker for the group did not make it clear how long the protest would last, but revealed that several of the migrants taking part in the demonstration had already received orders from the German authorities that they must voluntarily leave the country.
The Roma families are said to have lived in several cities around Germany including the Bavarian cities of Regensburg and Ingolstadt where they lived in collectives for failed asylum seekers. Some of the migrants have been in the country illegally for months while others had been in Germany for decades.
The protest bears striking similarity to a migrant sit-in that occurred in the Austrian capital of Vienna in 2012. In that case left-wing extremists paired up with migrants to demand an end to deportations as they occupied the Vienna Votive Church. The protest inspired the Austrian anti-mass migration Identitarian youth movement as well as playwright Elfriede Jelinek.
The playwright and the group eventually came into conflict this year when the youth group protested a performance of Mr. Jelinek’s play “The Proteges” as it was being performed at the University of Vienna. Later, the hipster-right group scaled the Burgtheater during another performance of the play to call the politicians who sanctioned the performance hypocrites.
Currently the Diocese of Regensburg has requested that the police not be involved in the protest. They have told the media in a statement: “The diocese of Regensburg is committed to humanitarian assistance and care,” which will include medical assistance and bedding for the families and care for the children. Police have also released a statement saying they have no intention to interfere with the protest at this time.