Saxony refugee shelter fire
Nobody was injured in the fire, which took place on 21 February, as the shelter was not yet inhabited. Onlookers made derogatory remarks about refugeesRICO LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Onlookers cheered as a former hotel being used as a shelter for migrants went up in flames in eastern Germany. Authorities described the crowd as showing "unashamed delight" as they watched flames lick at the building.

The fire started early morning on 21 February and gutted the roof of the hotel in Bautzen, Saxony, which was being converted into a shelter for refugees. Police suspect arson as the anti-refugee mob that gathered around the fire seemed to enjoy the blaze and investigators found traces of fire accelerant at the scene. Three intoxicated youths were also escorted away from the area by the police after they tried to prevent fire fighters from putting out the flames.

The incident occurred two days after a group of 100 protesters in Saxony blocked a bus carrying refugees from entering the area where they were to be transferred to a shelter for asylum seekers.

The mob shouted "Go home" and "We are the people". Saxony Governor Stanislaw Tillich referred to both events as "abhorrent and disgusting," and stressed that the authorities would investigate and "bring everyone responsible to account."

News agency DPA reported Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere as saying that while everyone in Germany is free to express their concerns: "There is a threshold of decency and law that must not be crossed — and this threshold was clearly crossed in the incidents in Saxony.

"It is completely unacceptable for people who are seeking protection from persecution here to be greeted with hatred and agitation," de Maiziere added.

Stunned by the growing boldness of far-right groups, Justice Minister Heiko Maas tweeted: "Those who shamelessly applaud when houses burn and scare refugees to death are displaying disgusting and revolting behaviour." He went on to tell media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland, "Verbal radicalism is a prelude to physical violence."

Saxony, which is home to anti-Islamist and anti-immigration group Pegida, has recorded the highest number of attacks against refugee shelters over the last year.