Germany was rocked this week by revelations that the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party secretly met with extremist groups to discuss plans to deport millions of German citizens deemed “unassimilated.” Details of the inflammatory deportation scheme were uncovered by investigative journalists, provoking widespread public condemnation and calls to ban the AfD.
Far-right politicians plot mass deportations
On January 9th, reports emerged that high-ranking AfD members had met in early January with Martin Sellner, leader of the far-right Identitarian Movement of Austria, to devise what they allegedly called a “remigration project.” According to the investigative report, the meeting took place at a secret location in Saxony and involved detailed discussions about deporting “unassimilated citizens.”
Among the AfD attendees were party co-leader Tino Chrupalla and parliamentary leaders Alice Weidel and Gottfried Curio. The politicians allegedly agreed that between 5-20 million German citizens who are perceived as having a “migration background” and fail to “assimilate into German society” would be subject to mass expulsion.
The Identitarian Movement, which espouses white nationalist ideology, has been classified by German domestic intelligence as a far-right extremist organization. By collaborating with such a fringe group, the AfD – which currently holds 83 seats in Parliament – would seem to be embedding itself deeper into extremist right-wing circles.
Widespread condemnation across party lines
When the deportation scheme was publicized earlier this week, it was swiftly condemned across party lines. Chancellor Olaf Scholz slammed the “cold and inhumane fanatics” within the AfD, calling their aims “absurd and contemptible.” Other party leaders echoed his remarks, emphasizing that the proposals betray Germany’s constitution and values.
“The AfD’s mask has slipped,” asserted Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “Anyone who makes unassimilated citizens fair game is attacking the very foundations of human decency.”
Multiple NGOs and activists have since spoken out against the “callous” and “openly racist” deportation plans. Demonstrations featuring slogans like “Nazis no thank you!” sprung up across Germany this week, signaling that significant segments of civil society staunchly oppose the AfD’s radical vision for the country.
Deportation plot sparks concerns about mainstreaming extremism
The furor also underscores growing fears that extremsm is penetrating Germany’s mainstream political discourse. While AfD politicians moved to distance themselves from the explosive revelations, analysts argue that xenophobic views have already been normalized by the party’s repeated allusions to “remigration.”
“This kind of rhetoric leads to violence aimed at the weakest members of society,” contends Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an expert on far-right radicalization. “Once these ideas are introduced as options for policymaking, it pulls the window of acceptable recommendations further and further to the extreme end.”
Now governing in two German states, the AfD appears dedicated to harnessing anti-immigrant sentiments among fringe voters. Their links with extremist networks like Sellner’s raise deeper concerns about growing ties between reactionary populists and militant activists.
Business leaders decry instability and intolerance
Top German business leaders have also begun speaking out against the destabilizing effects of the AfD’s radical posturing. Noting the vital role immigration has played in filling Germany’s labor force gaps, they argue that proposals for mass deportation would cripple the economy. Automotive and engineering giants like Volkswagen, Siemens and BMW signed an open letter emphatically rejecting the AfD’s vision of an exclusionary, ethnic conception of citizenship.
“Germany needs skilled immigrants. Racism and intolerance damage the country,” the CEOs wrote.
| Public Opinion on Banning Far-Right AfD Party |
| Support Ban | 64% |
| Oppose Ban | 24% |
| Undecided | 12% |
*Source: Forsa Institute Poll, Jan 15 2024
While the AfD clings to about 10% support nationally, a majority of Germans back banning the party outright amidst its latest extremist flare-up. However, with the AfD deeply embedded within regional governments, an outright prohibition does not seem imminent. The scandal does seem likely to cost the AfD votes during upcoming spring elections.
What next after deportation scheme leaks?
In the short term, the deportation scheme leaks may empower more militant wings of the AfD that see political success stemming from extremist posturing around immigration and national identity issues. Groups like Patriotic Europeans Against Islamicization (PEGIDA) could be reinvigorated. Hate crimes targeting Muslim immigrants and other minority groups may surge amidst the heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric.
However, the intensity of public and political backlash against the AfD likely signals that such inflammatory positions remain beyond the pale for many German voters. As Scholz contends, “We will fight very decisively against everything that threatens democracy.” While the AfD will retain a constituency peddling xenophobia and nationalism, this week made clear that broader German society resoundingly rejects its vision. Ultimately, the AfD’s association with fringe extremist elements and continued role in detonating political scandals seems set to relegate it to the sidelines of a political system it deems illegitimate.
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