A group of Balkan vagrants seized a Catholic cathedral in the German city of Regensburg and are threatening to go on a hunger strike if their demands are not met.
Early in July, a group of 50 vagrants from the former Yugoslavia arrived at a cathedral in Regensburg, asking for church asylum. Most of the large group of people, which included children and people in poor health, moved to the local priest’s house. About 14 of them, all Kosovo natives, eventually left as they don’t face deportation, but 25 remain at the priest’s lodgings.Some of the self-described refugees were demanding the confirmation of their right to seek asylum in Germany, despite their countries of origin being recognized as ‘safe’ by German authorities. In November 2014, Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were deemed safe, and Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro were deemed ‘safe’ in October of 2015; nevertheless many, of these countries remain plagued by high unemployment.
Diocese representative Jakob Schötz, however, argued that the Church cannot interfere in political affairs and therefore cannot meet the squatters’ demands.
The representatives of the Regensburg administration told Sputnik that the city is not responsible for the group because they’re not registered there, and the priest’s house is considered private property.
The regional government of the Upper Palatinate also claimed that the self-described refugees are beyond their jurisdiction as they arrived from shelters located in cities in other administrative districts, and not all of them are facing immediate deportation.
The situation continues to deteriorate as last week one of the squatters announced that if their demands are not met, the group would once again occupy the cathedral.
They also threatened to go on a hunger strike, and one of them even claimed that he’s prepared to burn himself and his underage daughter alive if the authorities try to evict them. Other group members also warned that some of them are contemplating suicide.
Vicar-general Michael Fuchs, who coordinates church activity, said that the situation has become intolerable.
“We revoked our call to authorities to treat this group’s presence with patience. We have no other way but to ask them to vacate the cathedral premises. If they don’t do that, we’ll have to resort to appeal to the police due to the violation of law and order,” he said.
The police officials have confirmed that if necessary, they’re ready to “restore the Church’s right of ownership to the cathedral.”
Meanwhile, several politicians have already condemned the group’s actions.
“If people try to put pressure on… the German rule-of-law state, they cross the line. We cannot allow that. Our state cannot be blackmailed,” Astrid Freudenstein, a Christian Social Union MP, said.
At the same time Christian Paulwitz, a representative of the Alternative for Germany party, claimed that the entire crisis had in fact been staged by the leftists, who seek to use migrants to gain publicity.
It remains unclear exactly how the situation will develop, and while a police operation aimed at liberating the cathedral premises remains a distinct possibility, it may result in a severe blow to the Church’s reputation due to media coverage.