Gokhan Balci / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

'Tide of indifference' to refugees shifting but pockets of violence remain

Despite compassion seen since photo that shamed Europe, police report attacks in Germany and Greece

Despite a surge of compassionate support for the plight of refugees sparked by photos of a drowned Syrian toddler face down on a Turkish beach, pockets of violence against those seeking sanctuary in Europe remain, with attacks against asylum seekers in both Greece and Germany.

On the Greek island of Kos, a group of 15 to 25 men attacked refugees with bats and yelling “go back to your country,” according to Amnesty International staff, who witnessed the violence first hand. Police had to disperse the crowd using tear gas, according to the rights groups.

Also on Friday, five people were injured in a fire at a refugee shelter in Heppenheim, a small town in western Germany. The three-story building housed migrants from countries such as Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia. In recent months, there have been more than 100 suspected arson attacks against refugee shelters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the spate of arson attacks, which came as resistance against immigration and resettlement of refugees in some part of the EU has increased.  

At same time, the seemingly worsening refugee crisis has prompted a wave of compassion among Europeans looking to help. The image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on the shore in Bodrum, Turkey, created a surge of donations across the continent.

“There is an enormous response from the public, the tide of indifference is shifting," Christian Peregrin, spokesman for the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station, told Agence-France Presse.

The group received a record $750,000 since the photo went viral, it reported. 

In the Netherlands, the Syrian boy’s fate "served as a massive catalyst" to generate awareness, a worker at the Dutch Refugee Council told AFP.

Alan, his four-year-old brother Galib and their mother Rehan drowned off the Turkish coast on Wednesday while trying to reach Europe across the Aegean Sea.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said that it had "received a hundred thousand dollars of unsolicited funding on our global donate page, which we are sure was largely due to the photo of the Syrian toddler."

Europeans are also increasingly offering shelter to refugee families in need. In Spain, nearly a dozen Spanish town halls have created a register of cities, and people who can volunteer to take in refugees. Barcelona mayor Ada Colau said her city received thousands of offers. Other cities such as Madrid and Valencia have followed suit, the Associated Press reported. 

In Germany, Fluchtlinge Wilkommen, or Refugees Welcome, a Berlin-based initiative, connects people with spare rooms to refugees. More than 780 households have opened up their homes since April, the group reported.

With wire services

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