No drop in racist assaults in Berlin

The ReachOut counselling centre counts more than 300 incidents. Since the beginning of the pandemic, attacks on people who are seen as Asian have increased.

An anti-racist demo in Düsseldorf last month.
An anti-racist demo in Düsseldorf last month.imago images/Cord

Berlin-Since the beginning of the corona pandemic a year ago, attacks on people thought to have an Asian appearance have increased in Berlin. This was one of the main takeaways from a new report released on Tuesday by ReachOut, the Berlin counselling centre for victims of rightwing, racist and antisemitic violence. 

"The cases that have come to our attention clearly show how much the intertwining of political debates and media coverage of the pandemic, which is often illustrated with photos of people read as Asian, leads to insults and attacks," said Sabine Seyb when presenting ReachOut's annual chronicle of racist and antisemitic attacks in 2020.

For example, at the end of February last year, Asian visitors to a café on Kopenhagener Straße in Prenzlauer Berg were racially insulted and threatened by several assailants who referred to the corona pandemic.

Not an isolated case, as Toan Quoc Nguyen from the Migration and Society educational centre confirmed at the ReachOut press conference:"Since corona, Asian and Asian-German people are perceived differently than before and experience massive infringements in their everyday life," he said.

"There are many examples of such people being increasingly shunned in public. They have frightening experiences of racism on buses and trains or in shops, but also in their residential neighbourhoods and places of work."

They are at the receiving end of verbal insults like "corona!" or "there's the coronavirus". But there are also physical attacks. Those affected are sprayed with disinfectants or are followed and harassed. "There has also been racist graffiti on their shops and snack bars," says Toan Quoc Nguyen.

ReachOut recorded a total of 357 racist and antisemitic attacks in Berlin last year. This is only a slight decrease compared to 2019, when a sad new record of 390 attacks was reached.

At least 493 people were injured, chased and seriously threatened in 2020, among them 37 children and 28 youths. "Due to the pandemic and the fact that fewer people are moving and staying in public spaces, we are surprised by such a high number of attacks," said Seyb.

More than half of the registered attacks - 196 - were racially motivated. A further 93 acts (105 in 2019) were directed against the sexual orientation of the victims, and the number of antisemitic violent acts was 28 (31 in 2019). ReachOut said most attacks took place in the innercity districts of Mitte, Neukölln, Charlottenburg and Friedrichshain.