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  • Daily Berlin news update: Friday, August 14


Daily Berlin news update: Friday, August 14

Crackdown on Corona drinking, alleged police assault victim deported, Deutsche Wohnen profits plunge, and Balearic travel warning considered. Also today: Nazi attack on Briton remembered.

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Senat tackles Corona “problem areas”, Geisel promises investigation into Neukölln extremism

Health Senator Dilek Kalayci has asked Berlin districts to identify party hotspots in an attempt to curb people drinking heavily in the streets and ignoring distancing rules. Local authorities are being told to provide the Senat with lists of these “problem areas” in which partying is thought to be driving Covid-19 transmission. The call comes after Mitte reported some of the highest daily case increases in the whole of Germany, with 28 new infections per 100,000 recorded on Wednesday. The warm weather has meant packed pubs and bars in Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln and Mitte, with large groups of young drinkers heading to Spätis and spilling out onto the pavements.

Interior Senator Andreas Geisel has announced a commission to investigate right-wing extremism in Neukölln after years of ideologically-motivated attacks in the district. Speaking to the taz newspaper, the SPD politician said he would assemble a board of outside experts to look into the facts of 72 instances of right-wing extremist offences since 2016, including 23 arson attacks. The announcement comes after a prosecutor investigating the crimes was transferred to another department on suspicion of bias. Berlin’s Attorney General’s Office is now in charge of all investigations into Neukölln’s right-wing crimes, whose victims are often people who have been active in tackling extremism. The commission is due to start work in September.

Police assault victim deported, profits plunge at Deutsche Wohnen, neo-Nazi attack on Briton commemorated 

An Afghan man who was allegedly assaulted by a police officer in a 2017 xenophobic attack was deported from Germany, it has emerged. On Monday we reported how a Berlin police officer is currently facing charges for the attack after the original investigation stalled when the victim left the country. It is now known that the man was in fact deported to Afghanistan on the orders of Interior Senator Andreas Geisel (SPD). Responding to the development today, Geisel said he was unaware of the alleged racist attack by the officer when deciding to deport the man. Speaking to RBB today, Geisel said that while individuals are not usually deported to Afghanistan, he chose to expel the man because of his own criminal record. While Geisel refused to give details, he suggested the man was responsible for “[a] particularly serious crime” such as murder, rape, grievous bodily harm or multiple assault. Berlin’s Refugee Council disputes Geisel’s account, and claims the deportation broke the law.

The effect of the Mietendeckel is clear: half-year profits for 2020 at property firm Deutsche Wohnen were €217 million – down significantly from €603 million last year. Explaining the results the company – which owns over 100,000 flats in Berlin – said it was forced to change the “valuation of its real estate” to take into account “current legal regulations.” This clearly reflects how Berlin’s rent cap is causing a sharp fall in returns on property investments. In response, the company is shifting its attention to real estate in Leipzig and Dresden, with €2 billion in new-build apartments in the works.

A ceremony was held today in Mahlow after the recent death of a Black British man who was the victim of a 1996 attack by neo-Nazis in the Brandenburg district. Birmingham-born Noël Martin was left paralysed from the neck down after being chased and attacked in his car by the right-wing thugs, causing him to crash into a tree. Martin had come to the area to work as a plasterer before the attack took place, and despite life-changing injuries went on to dedicate his life to ending racism, founding a British-German exchange program and making many return visits to Mahlow. Martin died on July 14 aged 60. 

Travel warning considered for Balearics, BVG offer free Brandenburg travel bonus

The federal government is considering introducing a travel warning for the Balearic Islands after the number of new infections in the Spanish archipelago jumped. Several Spanish regions are already subject to a warning by the German Foreign Ministry but the islands – which include tourist hub Mallorca – have remained unaffected. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said the issue was now being discussed: “We are monitoring the increased number of cases in Spain very closely,” she said. In the last week, the number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the islands has exceeded 50, which has previously been sufficient for Germany to classify a region as being high risk. Any travel warning or quarantine requirement applying to the Balearics would cause travel chaos, with dramatic consequences for both German holidaymakers and the Spanish economy.

This September holders of season tickets for Berlin’s public transport network are being allowed to travel free of charge throughout Brandenburg at the weekend as transport bosses pass on the fall in VAT to passengers. The federal government’s recent lowering of the VAT rate for public transport services from 7 to 5 percent has meant a €9 million windfall for the BVG due to reduced tax payments to the government, but now the transport authority has agreed to pass on this saving to passengers in the form of the free travel. Passengers with weekly, monthly and annual tickets as well as subscription cards are able to benefit from the free travel, which the firm is hoping will get Berliners back on trains after months of depressed passenger numbers.