By Allan Hall
Hundreds of anti-refugee rioters have gone on the rampage in the German city of Leipzig after a demonstration where they called for asylum seekers to be deported and their nation's borders closed.
The attacks come just hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that Europe had lost control of the crisis. The right-wingers broke away from a largely peaceful march in the eastern city to trash the suburb of Connewitz.
Doner kebab fast food stalls were destroyed, cars set ablaze and shop windows smashed by around 250 hooligans of LEGIDA - the local branch of PEGIDA, the anti-migrant, anti-EU organization which marched against the refugees earlier in the evening.
At one point the demonstrators, who threw fireworks at police, attempted to build a barricade in a main street with signs and torn up paving stones before they were dispersed.
Firemen had to tackle a blaze in the attic of one building set alight by a wayward rocket fired by the rioters. A bus carrying leftist pro-asylum demonstrators was also attacked and seriously damaged.
Police said they have identified and arrested 211 of the crowd of right-wing hooligans, many of them with criminal records for violence.
'This was a serious breach of the peace,' said a police spokesman, confirming that several police officers were injured in the clashes triggered by simmering anger over the New Year's Eve mass sex attacks against women in Cologne and several other German cities.
'Rape-fugees stay away' was one of the banners carried during the march, the wording above a silhouette of women running from knife-wielding attackers, one of whom resembled a caricature from Aladdin.
Earlier in the day Mrs. Merkel said; 'Now all of a sudden we are facing the challenge that refugees are coming to Europe and we are vulnerable, as we see, because we do not yet have the order, the control, that we would like to have.'
She also said the euro was 'directly linked' to freedom of movement in Europe, adding: 'Nobody should act as though you can have a common currency without being able to cross borders reasonably easily.'
Merkel said that if countries did not allow their borders to be crossed without much difficulty, the European single market would 'suffer acutely' - meaning that Germany, at the centre of the European Union and its largest economy, should fight to defend freedom of movement.
At one point the demonstrators, who threw fireworks at police, attempted to build a barricade in a main street with signs and torn up paving stones before they were dispersed
The EU has struggled to cope with a tide of refugees from war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, most of whom have landed in Greece or Italy before heading for wealthier northern EU states.
Germany has taken in the bulk of them, more than a million last year alone.
Some EU countries have re-established border controls within the passport-free Schengen zone, where they had been abolished, while efforts to share out the asylum-seekers across EU member states have floundered.
Merkel said that, to preserve the Schengen zone within the EU, it was necessary to make the bloc's external borders more secure.
The violence in Leipzig followed on from weekend attacks in Cologne by a vigiliante mob which used the social networking site Facebook to marshall young men - rockers, bodybuilders and club bouncers - to go on a 'manhunt' for immigrants.
Two Pakistani men were hospitalized and a third Syrian man was lightly injured before a stiff police presence on the streets thwarted further attacks.
It is unclear what their condition is although the police are looking to press charges of 'serious bodily harm' against their attackers who kicked, beat and abused them verbally.
The Express said the Facebook vigilante groups had promised an 'orderly clean up' of the old town centre in their 'manhunt.'
Police confirmed one Syrian man was also hurt in an attack on Sunday, which took place just 20 minutes after the first, but is believed to have been carried out by a separate group of five men.
German police say the number of criminal complaints filed after the events on New Year's Eve in Cologne has risen to 516 - 40 percent relating to allegations of sexual assault.
Germany's FBI, the Federal Criminal Office, said it had information that the surrounding and sexual molestation of women was a 'familiar phenomenon in some Arab countries.' Now it is liaising with police in all 16 states of Germany to formulate a strategy on how to combat it in future on German streets.
The minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, the German state where Cologne is located, admitted that people of foreign descent were responsible for virtually all of the violence on New Year's Eve in the city.
'Based on testimony from witnesses, the report from the Cologne police and descriptions by the federal police, it looks as if people with a migration background were almost exclusively responsible for the criminal acts,' Ralf Jaeger, interior minister from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia told a special commission on the Cologne violence.
'All signs point to these being north Africans and people from the Arab world,' he added. 'Based on what we know now from the investigation, asylum seekers who arrived in the past year are among the suspects.'
Rise in Migrants leaving Germany since sex assaults
Germany has started sending a growing number of migrants back to Austria since the New Year's Eve sex attacks in Cologne shocked the country.
Some of the departing migrants said they did not want asylum in Germany after the backlash on migrants following the attacks.
Ten of the 19 men suspected of carrying out the attacks in Cologne are believed to be asylum seekers leading to anti-migrant demonstrations in Germany.
Most of the migrants leaving Germany appear to be from Afghanistan and North Africa rather than from Syria, who are normally accepted for asylum.
'The daily number of migrants being turned back has risen from 60 in December to 200 since the start of the year, David Furtner, police spokesman in Upper Austria state, told AFP.
Many of the departing migrants are wanting to go to Scandinavia. However entering countries like Sweden has become harder for migrants since Denmark changed its border policy.
Germany's decision to send migrants back to Austria comes as the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann pledged to take tougher action at its borders to turn away 'economic migrants' in order to reduce overall immigration.
Around 90,000 of those sought asylum in Austria - a country of 8.5 million people - in 2015, around three times more than the previous year, ORF radio said, citing Interior Ministry statistics.
'One must transit to a Plan B. That means to intensify policies together with Germany to send back economic migrants and decrease overall numbers,' Social Democrat Faymann said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Krone published on Tuesday.
He said Austria needed to explore the legal framework for differentiating between those fleeing war and those who migrate for economic reasons.
'One thing is certain in any case: shortly, we will be more active at our borders than today. The Germans will also do more,' Faymann said.
Faymann has come under pressure from his conservative coalition partners and the far-right Freedom Party, which in recent opinion polls won the support of around a third of those surveyed.
Last month, Faymann said Austria should step up deportations of people who do not qualify for asylum.
Around 90,000 migrants sought asylum in Austria last year, nearly three times more than the previous year, ORF radio said
Cologne has a significant first and second generation immigrant population and racial tension has heightened in the wake of New Years Eve.
The city, which has a population of just over one million, has more than 120,000 practicing Muslim residents and the largest Jewish communities in Germany. Just over 5.5 per cent are born in Turkey.
Over the past week, the police presence in the city has been heightened, but many called the efforts 'too little too late', questioning why officers had not been able to stop the attacks.
On Monday, a regional parliamentary commission in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, whose largest city is Cologne, will question police and others about the events on New Year's Eve.
The attacks on women in Cologne have also sparked a debate about tougher rules for migrants who break the law, faster deportation procedures and increased security measures such as more video surveillance in public areas and more police.