Electioneering in Germany

AfD seeks to reboot migrant fears: "Germany First!"

The Alternative for Germany wants to scrap the right to asylum and make development aid conditional upon stopping emigration. The party says its suggestions are "humane," but in practice they would be anything but that. By Jefferson Chase

The lead candidates of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland, are not to be envied at the moment. Not only are the right-wing populists going through a two-year low in opinion polls, but public concern about migrants and refugees – the party's only winning issue – is also on the wane.

That was no doubt one reason why Weidel began a recent press conference by describing a nightmare scenario of millions of migrants from Africa pouring into Germany in the years to come, with each one costing the country some 75,000 euros ($88,000) a year.

The number of migrants arriving in Germany fell dramatically in 2016 to only around 280,000, down from 890,000 in 2015. In 2017 those figures have declined even further. But Weidel said that migration was set to rise again and accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of having no plan to deal with the issue.

"From our perspective, the government's policies offer no long-term, sustainable solutions and ideas for these problems at all," Weidel said. "There's a lot of talk, particularly in election periods. But absolutely nothing gets done."

Forced repatriation

The AfD used the press conference to present its own ideas for asylum and development aid. Its solution to what it terms the migrant "crisis" is to scrap constitutional guarantees that people who feel threatened in their homelands are able to apply for (but not necessarily receive) asylum in Germany.

Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland, leaders of the right-wing populist Alternative fur Deutschland party (photo: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler)
Struggling to make headway: at the back end of last year, when public fears over migration levels were running high, the AfD swept through local elections like a tornado. Now, however, support for the party appears to be waning. Limiting immigration remains a major issue for only 29 percent of German voters, while the latest pre-election opinion polls predict the AfD could garner a mere 7 percent of the vote

The populists would also like to cancel all the money Germany currently spends on refugees and bolster development aid to foreign countries that take an active role in preventing people from coming to Germany.

In addition, they suggest that the German navy should return refugees on the Mediterranean to the countries they embarked from, regardless of whether those countries are safe. And they want the Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development to be made subordinate to a Foreign Ministry that would think solely in nationalistic terms.

"German interests must be guiding principles and not that whoever happens to be visiting here right now gets some sort of development programme," said Gauland, who later quoted U.S. President Donald Trump: "It's not always America First. Sometimes it's Germany First."

Ears closed to humanitarian concerns

The AfD would like to present their suggestions as a "humane" alternative to the current situation, where governments and NGOs have faced accusations of involuntarily encouraging human traffickers. And on the surface, the prospect of more money being devoted to development aid, particular what the AfD is calling "lighthouse projects" to encourage self sufficiency, would potentially benefit African countries as well as Germany.

More on this topic
In submitting this comment, the reader accepts the following terms and conditions: Qantara.de reserves the right to edit or delete comments or not to publish them. This applies in particular to defamatory, racist, personal, or irrelevant comments or comments written in dialects or languages other than English. Comments submitted by readers using fantasy names or intentionally false names will not be published. Qantara.de will not provide information on the telephone. Readers' comments can be found by Google and other search engines.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.