The German government has condemned a mob that tried to stop a bus from taking migrants to a shelter as “cold-hearted and cowardly”.
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Angela Merkel, apologised, calling the episode “deeply shameful”.
About 100 people in the Saxony town of Clausnitz on Thursday shouted “we are the people” and tried to block the bus carrying about 20 asylum seekers.
Video footage showing terrified migrants crying caused outrage.
“How cold-hearted and cowardly one must be to stand in front of a bus with refugees and shout with the aim of frightening the passengers, including women and children,” Mr Seibert said.
Two days after the protest in Clausnitz, a shelter for asylum-seekers was set alight in Bautzen while onlookers applauded.
Mr Seibert called for a “clear response from government institutions and the majority of citizens”.
“This is not something that we can solve with rules from Berlin. It is something that we must, as a society, take a clear stance on,” he told a press conference.
Meanwhile, local authorities replaced the director of the refugee shelter after reports linked him to the populist anti-immigration party AfD (Alternative for Germany).
The man, identified as Thomas Hetze, had criticised Berlin’s decision to take in war refugees, but decided to help the newcomers all the same, telling the Bild daily: “Can one not be against the policy but still help anyway?”
Matthias Damm, a member of local authority, said the decision to remove him from the asylum shelter was for his own safety.
AfD head Frauke Petry said her party was looking into the links that the refugee centre director has with the faction. She also warned against drawing conclusions about the episode as investigations are still ongoing.
Separately, it emerged that Mr Hetze’s brother had organised the demonstration in Clauswitz.
Germany, which received 1.1 million asylum seekers last year, has recorded a rise in the number of attacks against migrant shelters.
The former Communist east in particular has seen a disproportionate number of far-right hate crimes.