As It Happens

Onlookers express 'undisguised joy' as German hotel intended for refugees burns

Police suspect arson in the fire at an empty hotel in Bautzen, Germany that is being converted to house refugees.
The burned down roof of a building in Bautzen, Germany, on Monday Feb. 22, 2016. The fire damaged the former hotel that was being converted into a refugee home. Two people were detained for hindering firefighters' work. (The Associated Press)

Early Sunday morning, a former hotel that is being converted into a shelter for refugees in Bautzen, Germany, burned down. A crowd formed, with several cheering the fire, and even trying to block emergency responders from putting out the blaze.

Police described the crowd's reaction as one of "undisguised joy", and they're treating the incident as arson. Refugee families were set to move in March 15th. 
Mayor Alexander Ahrens says the fire is "a shame to the entire city." (The Associated Press)
"We're not going to let some block-headed white supremacist arsonists decide who we host in our city." - Alexander Ahrens, mayor of Bautzen
The mayor of Bautzen, Alexander Ahrens, tells As It Happens host Carol Off, "I was really hoping we were not going be affected by this racist wave that is sweeping through parts of Germany." 
A fire engine stands in front of a burning building in Bautzen, Germany on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016. The fire damaged a former hotel that was being converted into a refugee home. Two people were detained after hindering firefighters' work, police said Sunday. (The Associated Press)

"The arsonists were working in a really professional manner, it makes me think they could come from the organized far-right extremist side," the mayor says.

Still, Ahrens insists the city is generally welcoming to refugees. The city is working with the proprietor of the burned hotel to get it repaired quickly. City officials are looking for alternative housing options for refugees in the meantime.

"We're not going to let some block-headed white supremacist arsonists decide who we host in our city, and under which conditions." 

Police have detained two men for allegedly hindering firefighters' work.

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