Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned "vile" violent demonstrations against refugees at the weekend, her spokesman said Monday, amid criticism she has failed to forcefully address anti-migrant sentiment.
After clashes erupted in eastern Germany over two nights between police and far-right thugs protesting the opening of a new centre for refugees, Merkel`s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin would not stand for hostility against the newcomers.
"The chancellor and the entire government condemn the violent rampages and the aggressively xenophobic atmosphere in the strongest terms," Seibert told reporters, using his strongest language to date to address a wave of anti-refugee violence in Germany.
"It is vile how right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis try to spread their hollow, hateful messages. Those who act like the aggressors of Heidenau place themselves far outside the law."
Seibert called it "shameful" to see citizens, even families with children, joining the protests "to back this horrific sentiment".
Germany is a "compassionate" country and will not allow refugees "to be met here by hateful slogans or alcohol-fuelled loud mouths".
He said all asylum-seekers, regardless of whether their claims would ultimately be approved, deserved to be treated with "dignity and respect".
Merkel, who is to hold talks with French President Francois Hollande on the refugee issue later Monday, faced growing calls over the weekend to speak out on aggression against refugees following the clashes in Heidenau on Friday and Saturday night.
Critics also took to social media using the Twitter hashtags #Merkelschweigt (Silent Merkel) and #Merkelsagtwas (Merkel, say something).
Merkel`s vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, visited Heidenau on Monday and said Germany should not cede "a single millimetre to this right-wing radical mob".
Germany is bracing for a record influx of up to 800,000 asylum-seekers this year and has registered more than 200 attacks against shelters housing or due to house refugees since January.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the demonstrators in Heidenau did not represent mainstream German opinion.
"Germany today is a country that is open to the world and -- even in light of the most recent events in Saxony, I stand by it -- a tolerant, culturally rich, diverse country," he told a gathering of German ambassadors.