After a mass brawl involving Chechens, Poles and Germans in the German city of Rheinsberg, both the city’s mayor and the state interior minister declared that the district’s integration policy relating to Chechen refugees has failed.
On Thursday evening last week, a group of Germans and Poles became involved in a violent fight with several Chechens. According to a report by the Tagesspiegel, the fight broke out when a Chechen attacked a boat rental employee in Rheinsberg.
Police stated that seven people were injured and several cars were damaged. Eight people, five Germans, and three Poles have been provisionally arrested, Junge Freiheit reported.
In the north of Brandenburg, the local Chechen community have repeatedly attracted attention due to clan structures and crime.
“Revenge actions and vigilante justice are not common in Germany and must not be,” warned Rheinsberg Mayor Frank Schwochowin a post on Facebook.
The following day, about a hundred Chechens gathered in Rheinsberg in a show of force, according to the police who described the mood as extremely heated and aggressive. The officials in the town detained 80 Chechens, who according to a report by the Märkische Allgemeine (MAZ), did not come from Rheinsberg alone, but from several other areas of the country.
During the gathering of Chechens, more mass brawls broke out. One police officer was slightly injured. A video of one of the clashes was posted on Twitter.
On Saturday, the two parties involved in the conflict agreed to a mediated conversation with the police in Neuruppin.
“We accepted this offer because mediated talks are most likely to be effective,” Neuruppins police spokeswoman Ariane Feierbach told the MAZ. The situation has since calmed, but nevertheless, a large contingent of police were still deployed to the city on Saturday to maintain order.
According to Tagesspiegel, one of the Chechens involved wrote on his Instagram account: “We are happy that we all stick together. The others will not let it go. But neither do we. We now know where they are.”
He also added the following in Chechen: “They’re not men, they’re goats.”
The boat rental company, on the other hand, whose employee is said to have been attacked, regretted on Facebook that the atmosphere on both sides was so heated and that the conflict had even come about.
“We just want to inform you that all ambiguities have been cleared up with the Chechen citizens. We are happy that everything is now clear, and we want a peaceful coexistence here.”
Meanwhile, Rheinsberg’s mayor, Frank Schwochow, accused the district administrator, Ralf Reinhardt, of abandoning the city in the conflict since he did not respond to calls or emails.
“There was a fire here in Rheinsberg, and I was left alone as mayor,” complained Schwochow.
The issue with Chechens and their clans are not only seen in Rheinsberg. According to the minister of the interior of Brandenburg, Karl-Heinz Schröter, about 7,000 people from the North Caucasus now live in his state and there have been a number serious incidents in various cities, including a massive fight between Chechens and Afghans in the city of Cottbus last summer.
He admits that the authorities and the police are not always able to prevent domestic conflicts between Chechens and other refugee groups, which most often occur in hostels. The minister says that Chechens are distinguished by a very quick mobilization of compatriots from other places, often so quick that the German police suspect that such incidents are planned in advance.
“There were problems with Chechens in other cities, especially in places where refugee applicants were concentrated,” said Schröter. “They are expressed in the conflicts between immigrants from Chechnya and other nationalities which involved whole groups of people who actually live in other areas of Germany immediately gathering. They were mobilized to respond by a member of the group who felt slighted, and sometimes it resulted in assaults.”
The Brandenburg interior minister said that Chechens tend to resolve problems with “brute force”, which creates difficulties for police. Germany has between 20,000 and 50,000 Chechens but the majority of them live in Brandenburg, with many of them arriving there after applying for refugee status.
There is also a link between radical Islam and Germany’s Chechen community. According to Schröter, of the individuals identified as Islamic extremists in Brandenburg, 45 percent of them are from the North Caucus region, which includes Chechnya.
“These are people who not only profess a certain religion, but are also ready to establish it with the help of force,” he said. Police intelligence have also documented the deep links between Chechen organized crime and radical Islamist groups.
Conflicts involving Chechens are not limited to organized brawls either, but have escalated into shootings, such as the case in Berlin in 2018 in which three Chechens and three Kosovars opened fire on a cafe with AK-47s after the owner allegedly refusing to pay for marijuana he purchased.
Schröter said that the fact that there is currently no armed conflict in Chechnya means “many of these [asylum] claims are rejected, however, after a negative decision, there is still a legal opportunity to challenge it, and almost all applicants resort to it. As a result, their stay in Germany is significantly delayed.”
Schröter said that this was a general problem with asylum applications in Germany, saying there are many reasons courts will prevent deportation.
“For example, medical indications, pregnancy, the presence of young children or babies. All this prevents deportation to their homeland, at least for a while. And so a large group of Chechens — but also representatives of other nationalities — are now in Germany despite the fact that their applications for asylum were rejected,” he said.
An article in Deutsche Welle entitled, “Chechen clans in Germany: what can the police oppose to them?” explored the very few options special forces have to stop Chechen organized crime groups. According to the article, Chechen gang have the “ideal qualities for the underworld”:
“Berliner Morgenpost newspaper quoted an expert on organized crime from the Federal Office of Criminal Affairs. According to him, Chechens are increasingly becoming involved in criminal cases of extortion and drug trafficking. However, it is extremely difficult to investigate these crimes due to the high degree of closeness (clannishness) of the groups.”
The issue of language is also a barrier for law enforcement.
The issue with Chechen gangs and.abilty to organize members of the group has also been displayed in other countries. France recently experienced fours days of conflict between warring Chechen and Arab groups in the city of Dijon, leading to a conflict that drew hundreds of Chechens to the city from across France and other European countries for a revenge attack on Arab gangs.