Reuters International

Right-wing protestors demonstrate against refugees, Islam and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Almost 2,000 far-right protesters marched through Berlin on Saturday to demand that Chancellor Angela Merkel step down for allowing more than a million migrants from the Middle East into Germany since last year.

Under the motto 'Merkel must go', demonstrators gathered outside Berlin's central train station waving German flags and holding up posters reading "Islamists not welcome" and "Wir sind das Volk" ("We are the People"), a slogan coined by the protesters who ended communist rule in East Germany, adopted last year by the anti-Islam Pegida movement.

The rally drew around 1,800 participants, police said, less than half the number organisers had expected, and the protesters were outnumbered by around 7,500 left-wing counter-demonstrators who also marched through the capital.

A spokesman for the police said there had been scuffles when several left-wing demonstrators tried to break through barriers separating the two groups, and threw bottles at police.

Police used tear gas and made several arrests, the spokesman said, adding that the situation had quickly been brought under control.

While many Germans have welcomed the new arrivals, others say the country cannot cope with integrating them and risks losing its identity.

Support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party has risen sharply, while arson attacks on refugee centres and sometimes violent protests have become increasingly common.

(Reporting by Reuters TV and Thorsten Severin; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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