|Jan. 25, 2018 -- Incidents of violence against homeless people are increasing on German streets, online magazine Spiegel reported on Wednesday.
The article cited numbers from the Federal Criminal Police Office which show a rise in cases of bodily harm against homeless people of 30.8 percent, from 363 in 2014 to 475 in 2016.
A recent finding by the Federal Working Community for Assistance to Homeless People (BAGW) shows at least 17 individuals living on the street were murdered in Germany, taking the total tally of victims since reunification in 1989 to 505. The BAGW stressed that the real figure was likely to be substantially higher given a lack of public interest in the subject.
German attention to the phenomenon of violence against homeless people has largely centered on incidents involving foreign citizens in recent years, including the widely-publicized case of several refugees, some of which were minors, who attempted to set a Polish homeless man on fire on Christmas Eve 2016.
However, BAGW director Werena Rosenke told Spiegel online that while the victims of violent crime against homeless people were often foreigners, migrants acting as perpetrators were "largely an exception to the rule." Instead, "right-wing extremist motifs" more often played a "central role", especially when perpetrators were groups of young men.
A study by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which lists victims of right-wing violence, estimated that at least 26 homeless people have been murdered by right-wing extremists since 1990. Robert Luedecke, representative of the foundation said that "despite their excessive brutality and inhumane logic, cases of right-wing extremists murdering homeless people only receive little public attention unfortunately."
The BAGW noted that in the majority of incidents which it recorded, homeless people were both the victims and perpetrators of violent crime. In 68 out of 141 cases of bodily harm in 2017, all parties involved were homeless. The same circumstance applied to 13 out of 17 instances of murder.
Speaking to Spiegel, Johan Grasshof, a social worker in Hamburg said homeless people appeared to have less and less inhibitions against inflicting violence on each other. According to Grasshof, rough sleepers, especially from other European Union (EU) states were increasingly chased away from their preferred spots by municipal authorities. This trend had intensified competition for relatively safe and warm places to spend the night and coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people in Germany.
"There has always been competition on the street, but it has increased in the past years," Grasshof said.
According to a BAGW estimate, the number of homeless people in Germany has more than doubled from 20,000 in 2007 to 52,000 in 2017.