On Monday night, a truck slammed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing at least 12 people and wounding 48. The suspected driver was detained near the scene while a passenger – reported to be a Polish national – was found dead in the truck.
The attention, however, has been focused on the origins of the suspect: Some news agencies are suggesting that the driver was a 23-year-old Pakistan refugee, who came to Germany last year. He could well be an Afghan or Afghan-Pakistani. Investigators have yet to clarify this.
Thousands of Pakistani and Afghan refugees in Germany fear what impact Monday’s attack will have on them – particularly from their host country’s far-right groups – as it’s not the first time a refugee has terrorized Germans.
In July, the “Islamic State” (“IS”) militant group claimed responsibility for two attacks carried out by asylum seekers in the Bavarian town of Ansbach. In August, a 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker was shot dead by German police after he attacked several passengers in a train near the southern German city of Würzburg with an axe and knife, inflicting serious injuries. Barely two months later, a 19-year-old medical student Maria was allegedly raped and murdered by an underage Afghan refugee while she was returning home from a party.
‘It will make things worse for us’
“I am still finding it hard to believe that somebody from Pakistan could do something like this. We have faced tremendous hardships on our way to reach Europe. And if it is proven that a Pakistani refugee has committed a terrorist act in Berlin, I’m afraid this will make things worse for us,” said Akber Ali, a 36-year-old Pakistani refugee in Bonn, who came to Germany last year.
Berlin-based Pakistani migrant Muhammad Bilal says this incident will likely spark hatred against Pakistani nationals in general.
“The Berlin attack can be used politically by groups like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) that are opposing refugees. I fear that such attacks will also turn the public opinion against us,” Nusrat Iqbal, an Afghan refugee based in the German city of Dortmund, told DW.
“I hope the Germans won’t paint all refugees with the same brush because criminal activities should be taken as an individual act,” Iqbal added.
Siegfried O. Wolf, the director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), agrees that the incident will have an impact on these groups.
“Germans will increasingly mistrust migrants now and certain political parties will try to gain political capital out of the attack. Also, the Berlin attack could lead to more actions by individuals against people with migration background,” Wolf told DW.