Politicians from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had a meeting with an extremist group to discuss a deportation ”masterplan. Germany made the highest pledges of all EU Member States for refugee resettlement in 2024 and 2025. Despite mass campaigns and demonstrations, the Bundestag passed a bill that will hasten the deportation of failed asylum seekers.
Prominent figures from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party reportedly had a meeting in November 2023 with the head of the right-wing “extremist” Identitarian Movement and “neo-Nazi activists” to discuss a “masterplan” for the mass deportation of migrants and “non-assimilated” German citizens or what both sides call “remigration”. According to the “re-migration” plan, migrants will be forcefully deported to their countries of origin via mass deportation and will target citizens holding German passports who, Martin Sellner, a member of the Identitarian Movement, claims, “form aggressive, rapidly growing parallel societies”. Participants in the meeting also discussed deportations to an unnamed state in North Africa that would provide space for up to two million people and suggested that people who advocate for refugee rights could also be sent there. Ideas discussed in the “secret meeting” were met with a backlash from all sides including conservative parties. Chancellor Olaf Scholz slammed the AfD saying: “We do not allow anyone to differentiate the ‘we’ in our country based on whether someone has an immigration history or not. .“We protect everyone — regardless of origin, skin color,” he added, urging democrats to stand against far-right “fanatics”. The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) , Friedrich Mer, condemned the “remigration” plan saying: “Germany has been a country of immigration for decades. (…) One that very successfully integrated immigrants”. Birgit Sippel MEP wrote on X: “the hatred against immigrant people is concrete. We must not stand by and watch as the deportation of millions of people living in Germany is discussed using remigration.” Meanwhile, demonstrations condemning the meeting and protesting its implications have been taking place across the country. “The line has long since been crossed” protester Stephan Kalsh said at a demonstration in Cologne. Scholz expressed his “gratitude that tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets across Germany these days against racism, hate speech and in favour of our liberal democracy”.” Despite a rise in the anti-racist movement in Germany, the main opposition party, the CDU is worried about the growing popularity of the AfD among the public. As a “preventive measure”, it has urged the federal government to work with the states to tighten asylum policy, fearing that the issue could be taken over by the far-right. “The power of populists and extremists is always fuelled by the democrats’ inability to act. This is especially true when it comes to one of the major problems of our time: the migration question”, Minister-President of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, told the Tagesspiegel.
Germany’s net migration is said to have peaked in 2022 following the war in Ukraine and the number of irregular migrants at Germany’s borders with Poland, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland has decreased by 40%. Germany has credited stricter border checks for this outcome. Although the EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, expressed concerns in October 2023 over the issue of internal border checks, describing them as “a challenge for the Schengen area”, German interior minister Nancy Faeser, who ordered the reintroduction of control checks, is happy that the temporary border controls “are working”. Separately, the government has lifted the Iranian deportation ban, which was introduced in 2022, to offer protection to Iranian nationals, allowing them to stay in Germany without going through individual asylum procedures. Following the change, Iranians will now be required to process asylum requests and can be deported if they are refused. Meanwhile, according to a recent document published by the European Commission, Germany has pledged to resettle more UN-screened refugees in 2024 and 2025 than any other EU Member State (13,000). This is significantly higher than the second-highest pledge, which was made by France (6000).
Finally, the controversial ’Repatriation Improvement Act’ (Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Rückführung) was adopted by the Bundestag (German parliament) on 18 January despite a signatory campaign by NGOs, including sea rescue NGO, SOS Humanity, with over 135,000 citizens and massive counter-demonstrations in multiple cities. The Act foresees an increase in the maximum length of pre-deportation custody from 10 to 28 days, authorizes residential searches to authorities without an obligation to give notice of deportation in some cases, as well as, obstruction to rescue activities. A loophole was found in the Act regarding the criminalisation of rescue operations. Initially, it did not include the phrase ‘by land’ in an attempt to criminalise civilian search and rescue. Following protests by civil society organisations, the phrase was included. However, two new legal opinions have warned that, although the proposed amendment would allow the rescue of adults without penalty, the rescue of unaccompanied minors in distress at sea could now become a criminal offence. SOS Humanity said that the German government: “broke their promises of the coalition agreement to not hinder civil search and rescue”, fearing the possibility of facing “up to 10 years in prison for their life-saving work”. Sarah Schneider from Medical Volunteers International, said: “The EU continues to close itself off and massively restrict access to human rights. The criminalisation of NGOs working for human rights is appalling! Health is a human right and must be made unconditionally available to all people, regardless of where they live or their status. We stand with all other affected organisations against this tightening of the law and demand the protection of humanitarian NGOs and full solidarity with all people on the move.” Additionally, ECRE member organisation PRO ASYL, which has been a long-term critic of the Act and which has raised strong concerns about its potential to cause serious infringements of fundamental rights, issued a press release on 17 January in which it appealed to democratic parties to “stop the shift in discourse to the right, in which refugees are systematically scapegoated.”
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