As reported by the media organization Corrective, an undisclosed meeting took place near Berlin, the capital of Germany in November in which members of the Alternative for German Party (AfD) and various right-wing groups including Martin Sellner, a leader of Austria’s Identitarian Movement participated. That meeting planned mass deportation of citizens of foreign origin to save the German race from further impurity.
While German Chancellor appreciated massive protests on Sunday, January 28 against Neo-Nazis, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser stated in the newspapers of the Funke press group that “the far-right meeting was reminiscent of “the horrible Wannsee conference”, where the Nazis planned the extermination of European Jews in 1942.
Banners condemning AfD and Neo-Nazis are seen all over Germany in which slogans like “Nazis, no thank you”, “It feels like 1933, AfD ban now!” and “Investigate banning AfD” were prominent.
How did AfD gain popularity and electoral strength in Germany and why its opponents are serious about stopping the wave of anti-migration? The AfD was founded as a Eurosceptic party in 2013 and first entered the German Bundestag (Parliament) in 2017. It gained popularity in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) or eastern part by winning electoral seats. Most opinion polls now put it in second place nationally with about 20 percent support, far above the 10.3 percent it won during the last federal election in 2021. It was the year 2015 that was decisive in giving a new impetus to the wave of racism in Germany and giving strength to AfD.
In 2015 around one million migrants particularly from Syria had sneaked into Germany crossing Turkey, Greece, former Yugoslavia, and Austria. The then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead of deporting a massive influx of migrants from Arab/Muslim countries launched a program to integrate them into German society. But, deep down, feelings against migrants from different cultural and religious backgrounds led to the surge of neo-Nazi groups. AfD was formed as a reaction to Merkel’s pro-migration policy which she named “multiculturalism”. The wave of migrants was dispersed in German towns and cities while some of them sneaked into various EU member counties.
The remigration project, which got an impetus after the November meeting near Berlin, means deporting foreign-origin immigrants and nationals to save the German race from impurity. The slogan of anti-Semitism during the reign of the Nazi Socialist Party of Adolf Hitler was to ensure the purity of the German race by excluding Jews and non-Aryans. 96 years down the road, Germany is again facing the emergence of groups who intend to purify their country of immigrants. Alarmists in Germany argue that if AfD and other neo-Nazi parties are not prevented from their furthering their ‘Remigration Program’ the day is not far when their country will face a situation that prevailed in the inter-war period leading to the outbreak of the Second World War and holocaust of millions of Jews.
It is not only in Germany where one can observe the emergence of ultra-right-wing groups advocating the culture of ‘populism’ other countries of Europe are facing the surge of anti-migrant political parties.
Taking advantage of Schengen Visa, legal and illegal migrants because of economic predicament and political persecution in their countries sneak into any EU member state, and from there they spread to far and wide Europe. Illegal migrants try to cross into Europe from Italy and Greece which tends to spread resentment among local unemployed youth providing space to right-wing parties with an agenda of ‘remigration’.
Since Germany is the strongest economy in Europe but with an aging population, migrants are tempted to settle in that country for a better future. Unlike AfD which has a clear position against migrants from Arab/Muslim countries, there are elements in Germany who are not hostile to foreigners having different cultural and religious backgrounds. For instance, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz criticized the AfD by 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 asserted, urging democrats to stand against far-right “fanatics”. The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Friedrich Mer, condemned the “remigration” project by 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 favor of our liberal democracy”.”
Germany’s population is 82 million out of which around 10% are migrants. After the end of the Second World War and the division of Germany, its western part came under U.S, British, and French occupation and started from scratch with a resolve to rebuild their country and prevent any surge of racism as was evident during the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler from January 1933 till May 1945.
After the reunification of Germany in October 1989, the German leadership focused on meeting the challenges of integrating their eastern part called as former German Democratic Republic (GDR), and mitigating the economic and social gap between the two parts of Germany.
A unified Germany provided hope to the people of that country to remain peaceful, economically strong, and politically stable. The slogan ‘never again’ reminding of the holocaust launched by the Nazi party was given a constitutional cover as undemocratic, fascist, and racist slogans and preaching were banned.
Now, after around a quarter of a century of German unification, one can hear slogans tantamount to racism and intolerance against the migrant population. That has deepened fear and insecurity not only among millions of migrants but also a large segment of the German population who advocate the slogan ‘Not Again.’
One needs to analyze the potential surge of racism and Nazism under the project of ‘Remigration’ from three angles. First, the ‘remigration’ project in Germany has some appeal, particularly in those segments of society where growing hatred against immigrants is a reality. It is asked can a country, which nine decades ago provided a fertile ground for the Nazi Socialist Party with a slogan of anti-Semitism leading to the holocaust of millions of Jews, again provides space to those groups who hold immigrants responsible for unemployment and impurity of the German race.
But, unlike nine decades ago when forces of tolerance and democracy failed to cope with the rising tide of Nazism, in 2024 the situation is different. It is not only the Social Democratic Party and Greens Party but also right-wing parties like the Christian Democratic Party and Christian Social Union that are against the philosophy of AfD and realize how dangerous it will be to give space to elements who want to deport millions of immigrants under their remigration project.
Second, there is a nexus between the ultra-right wing and racist groups in Germany and their counterparts in Europe because they see the surge of immigrants, both legal and illegal, as a threat to European culture and civilization. Parties and groups like Brothers of Italy, National Rally in France, Party for Freedom and Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, Finns Party in Finland, Freedom Party of Austria, Sweden Democrats in Sweden, and Golden Dawn in Greece are known for their anti-migration stance.
The support for remigration in Germany and many European countries at the grassroots level is a reality but equally strong are those who are against the growing tide of racism and consider migration as a source of strength.
The culture of populism in the last two decades tends to influence young minds in Germany because the influx of one million migrants into their country in 2015 tends to augment economic and social tension. When anti-migration groups get space in the political landscape of Germany and the media also give them adequate coverage, sentiments against those with foreign origin and Muslim background are a target.
The worst scenario would be if the state institutions of Germany began to render tacit support to racist groups and failed to take action against those who target immigrants. Finally, it is the civil society and intelligentsia of Germany that need to play a cogent role in reversing the anti-migration or ‘remigration’ movement. Furthermore, if economic and political conditions in developing and poor countries are better, the tide of migration to Europe, particularly Germany can be reversed. AfD is not openly supporting the remigration project but one can see in their rank and file those who are sympathetic to such an agenda.
One needs to understand the fact that Europe has accommodated millions of migrants despite cultural and religious contradictions. But, if migration, particularly illegal migration, continues from North Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia to Europe, the day is not far when the project of ‘remigration’ will get acceptability and support at the local level. Whereas, will Muslim countries particularly Pakistan tolerate Westerners in their cultural and religious lifestyle to live in large numbers?
Dr. Moonis Ahmar is the former Chairman, of the Department of International Relations; former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and Meritorious Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. He is also the Director of the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Program. His specialization is conflict and security studies focusing on the South and Central Asian regions. Dr. Ahmar has 36 years of academic experience in Pakistan and different foreign universities and research think tanks. He is also the author of a published book by the Routledge Press entitled, The Challenge of Enlightenment, Conflict Transformation and Peace in Pakistan.