A fire destroyed accommodation in Wismar, NE Germany, where Ukrainian refugees were staying in Germany | Photo: Jens Büttner / dpa / picture alliance
A fire destroyed accommodation in Wismar, NE Germany, where Ukrainian refugees were staying in Germany | Photo: Jens Büttner / dpa / picture alliance

An official investigation is underway as to the cause of the fire, though local leaders said arson was considered likely. Residents were able to escape without injury, but the building is badly damaged.

Police in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania said on Thursday that they were investigating whether there was a political motivation behind the fire at a shelter for Ukrainian refugees near the town of Wismar that had broken out the night before.

The case was initially being handled by the police department of Rostock, a city northeast of Wismar, but they said later that it had been handed over to state security services to determine the circumstances behind the suspected case of arson.

Rostock police vice-president Michael Peter said: "Every attack on refugees or their accommodations is also an attack on our basic values — such an attack is both shocking and unacceptable." 

Officials said that relevant fire experts had been dispatched to the scene to investigate.

Mostly Ukrainian refugees at shelter

The fire broke out late on Wednesday night at the shelter in a small village northeast of Wismar.

At the time of the fire, 14 residents, mostly of Ukrainian origin, and three staff members were in the building. None of them were injured, as the fire department was able to bring the flames under control. 

The damage was such that officials were concerned the building might be in danger of collapsing.

Local politician Tino Schomann said that last weekend the same refugee shelter had called the police because swastika drawings had been found on their entry sign. Schomann added that there was what he saw as obvious evidence of arson.

"It didn't burn on its own," he said.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser expressed her outrage at the incident.

"This is terrible news. People who found shelter with us from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's war had to be rescued from the flames," Faeser said. "If arson is confirmed, it is an inhumane crime that will be prosecuted with all severity." 

Faeser is scheduled to visit the site on Thursday evening.

los/es (AFP, AP, dpa)

First published: October 20, 2022

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