German police sprayed tear gas on several hundred demonstrators throwing bottles and stones at busloads of asylum seekers arriving at an eastern German town in the early hours of Saturday in scuffles which left several people hurt, media reported.
Initially, several hundred people had held a peaceful demonstration in the town of Heidenau, near Dresden, on Friday evening to object to the expected arrival of 250 refugees who were due to be housed in an empty building there.
But media reported that a group of far-right radicals, many belonging to the militant National Democratic Party (NPD), joined the protest and started shouting xenophobic slogans.
They also chanted “Wir sind das Volk”, a slogan originally used by East Germans in protests leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall but adopted this year by the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement which attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators to weekly rallies.
Eventually police cleared the up-to-1,000 protesters and the buses got through to their destination, media cited police as saying.
“After the riots, the situation is now calm,” a police spokesman told Tagesspiegel online, adding it was not yet clear how many people had been injured or how many arrests there had been.
Germany is struggling to cope with a surge in the number of asylum seekers and politicians are worried about growing tensions.
However, government figures were swift to condemn the riots.
“Sometimes you don’t want to be a foreigner in our country. But neither do you want to be a German. I am ashamed of these racists in Heidenau,” deputy foreign minister Michael Roth tweeted.
Responding to the incident, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said is a statement: “We must never tolerate people in our country being threatened or attacked… there is zero tolerance for xenophobia or racism.”
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said last week he now expected 800,000 asylum seekers to arrive in Germany this year, four times last year’s level.
Arson attacks and unruly protests have increased against the rising number of refugees and politicians have warned of a growing hostility to foreigners.
No-one at Dresden police was immediately available to comment.