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AfD’s Remigration Agenda: Germany’s Challenge of Far-Right Extremism

Ms Saman Ayesha Kidwai is Research Analyst at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • February 09, 2024


    Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) organised a covert meeting in November 2023 in Potsdam which featured the leader of the far-right Identitarian Movement,1 Martin Sellner. This meeting has sparked outrage over the AfD’s remigration agenda, referred to as a ‘masterplan’.2 This meeting was attended by three key figures within AfD—Ulrich Siegmund (Parliamentry Group Leader for Saxony-Anhalt), Tim Krause (Chair of the District Party in Potsdam and AfD Spokesperson) and Roland Hartwig (former aid to Alice Weidel, co-leader of AfD). They debated on ways to remigrate or forcefully deport those individuals to an unnamed country in Africa, who in their opinion failed to assimilate, had non-German lineage or demonstrated support for asylum seekers.

    The attendees are adherents of a conspiracy theory commonly known as the Great Replacement, as per which there is a deliberate attempt to replace the White European population with migrants of colour, thereby altering the racial demography for good. While Remigration, a sociological term, refers to a voluntary migration of people back to their homelands, the far-right extremists, White supremacists, and conspiracy theorists have promoted a pejorative understanding of the subject. They have manipulated the term and endorsed it as a forced migration or deportation of non-members—migrants, asylum seekers, and their families.3 Remigration, a term considered anti-Islam and xenophobic by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has been integral to AfD’s political agenda on social media platforms and in public speeches, where it has previously spoken about ‘a national and a supranational remigration agenda’.4

    AfD’s Response

    After the discussions at the meeting were exposed by a non-profit newsroom, they have been termed as a ‘smear campaign’ by the Left and reminiscent of the tactics adopted by the Stasi.5 Nevertheless, AfD’s extremist rhetoric and support for mass expulsion within parliamentary halls,6 while having polled second nationally in an opinion poll conducted by YouGov (a global public opinion and data company),7 indicates that should Germany take a hard tilt towards the far-right like Italy, Hungary, and Sweden, the party would use all means, including constitutional, to undermine the Basic Law enshrined in the constitution which prohibits discrimination against Germans regardless of their race, nationality or religion. It was instituted in May 1949 following the racially discriminative policies that defined Adolf Hitler’s reign throughout the Third Reich and culminated in the Second World War.

    While deciding not to expel individuals like Tim Krause, an AfD spokesperson and an attendee at the Potsdam meeting, lawmakers such as Hans-Christopher Berndt (leader of AfD’s Parliamentary Group in the Brandenburg State Parliament) have gone as far as to argue that ‘Remigration is not a secret plan, but a promise.’8

    Notably, those in attendance were required to donate a minimum of Euros 5,000 to advance the broader far-right cause across Europe. The organisers, the Düsseldorf Forum explained that funds were being solicited for a primary cause ‘We (Düsseldorf Forum) need patriots who are ready to act and individuals who will support their activities financially.’9

    The Remigration Debate

    This meeting and the ideas circulated among those present cannot be looked at in isolation. AfD has consistently advocated through its policies and actions to impose a ban on migrants and asylum seekers. Furthermore, its chapters in the states of Thuringia, Saxony, and Saxony-Anhalt10 and its youth wing—Junge Alternative or Young Alternatives11 —have been classified by the German Domestic Intelligence Services as extreme right-wing organisations and its leaders have been placed under surveillance over the past year.

    In 2020, protestors decrying COVID-19 restrictions broke into the Bundestag (German Parliament) using badges procured by AfD lawmakers.12 In addition, a large group of alt-right extremists who are adherents of the Reichsbürger movement (which denies the legitimacy of the post-Third Reich Germany),13 including Birgit Malscak-Winklemann (she served as one of AfD’s parliamentary representatives between 2017 and 2021), were arrested in December 2022 for attempting to carry out a coup violently.

    Malsack-Winklemann had access to confidential proceedings and documents during her tenure.14 As part of this group’s agenda, upon the coup’s realisation and overthrow of the democratic order in Germany, she was intended to be placed as the Justice Minister. This highlights that AfD’s support for an extremist agenda and undermining of German democracy has been in the works for years.

    Germany, among all the European Union member states, has pledged to accommodate the largest number of refugees approved by the United Nations, totalling 13,000 in 2024 and 2025.15 At the moment, at least 23.8 million (10 million of whom have German passports)16 trace their lineage to migrants who settled down in Germany.17 Furthermore, there is growing frustration about Germany’s immigration and asylum policies among the public. As of September 2023, only 19 per cent of Germans have demonstrated support for the government’s handling of the refugee influx, marking a significant decrease from 43 per cent in 2018.18 Additionally, political leaders such as Markus Söder of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria or CSU have called for more restrictive immigration policies. As public opinion turns against immigrants and refugees, AfD will continue consolidating its strength and political influence. This has undoubtedly fuelled AfD’s ambition to oust as many individuals who fail to meet their litmus test of what it means to be a German.

    Fallout of Correctiv’s Findings

    Horrified by the revelations, at least a million people19 across Germany have taken to the streets chanting anti-AfD and anti-Nazi slogans, which have spilled over into neighbouring Austria, where at least three such rallies have also been held. Moreover, in a closely watched district administrative election in Saale-Orla (Thuringia) in January 2024, AfD narrowly lost to the Christian Democrats.20 This defeat has jolted AfD’s continued propulsion towards regional dominance in areas considered to be its strongholds.

    Leaders from across party lines have called for Germans to rally against AfD’s attempts at eroding German democracy. Katharina Dröge (Parliamentary leader of the Greens Party) has asserted that

    ‘We’re all called on now, in our private lives, in the workplace, at sport, when shopping, to clearly state that voting for the AfD is to vote for right-wing extremists, who pose a threat to democracy.’21    

    Interestingly, even some of the most well-known far-right political leaders, such as Marine Le Pen (National Front), have balked at AfD’s proposal, indicating that it does not bode well for their continued alliance—the Identity and Democracy (ID) group—in the European Parliament and it could not be, at least for those holding citizenship, be implemented in France.22

    It has also renewed nationwide discussions on whether legal avenues must be adopted to thwart the German far-right extremists’ further consolidation of electoral power. Questions have been raised about taking the issue of banning AfD to Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which is the deciding authority regarding such matters.

    A Potential Ban on AfD: Possibilities and Challenges

    Per the requirements laid out by the Federal Constitutional Court, the imposition of a ban on a political party needs to meet two primary conditions:

    ‘The mere dissemination of anti-constitutional ideas is not sufficient. To be declared unconstitutional, a party must also take an actively belligerent, aggressive stance vis-à-vis the free democratic basic order and must seek to abolish it. In addition, specific indications are required which suggest that it is at least possible that the party will achieve its anti-constitutional aims.’23

    There are precedents for banning a political party.  The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and Socialist Reich Party (SPR) in the post-World World War II era in 1950 were banned for their ‘anti-democratic behaviour’.24 The ideological opposition to communism that had swept through Western Europe and among those fleeing East Germany facilitated and legitimised the crackdown on communist parties by declaring them as elements that posed a significant risk of undermining the post-Third Reich constitution. There was limited grassroots support for such parties and minimal appetite for a communist society.

    Theoretically, individual AfD members’ involvement in various extremist activities, as mentioned above, on top of allying itself with militant groups25 and espousing anti-Semitic views frequently, and now the remigration plan, provides sufficient basis for it being proscribed. Simultaneously, its chapters’ classification as extreme right-wing, along with placing leaders under surveillance in 2021 for attempting to undermine German democracy (making it the first party to be subjected to this measure since 1945),26 provide robust evidence for the Court to prevent its further enlargement in terms of mobilisation, access to resources, and participation in the political sphere.

    Nevertheless, banning AfD will prove to be a greater hurdle. This is because despite the massive outpouring of opposition to AfD’s proposed plan from various corners, it still ranks as the most potent political force and ranks the second-highest behind the Christian Democrats in national polls conducted in 2023. AfD controls 78 seats in the parliament, a little over 10 per cent of the total seats.27 Analysts expect it will receive at least 30 per cent of the total vote share in state elections scheduled to be held this year in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg.28 These developments are crucial since state governments have significant representation in Germany’s upper house, i.e., the Bundesrat, which can veto 40 per cent of legislation introduced by the government.29

    Moreover, if the courts do not agree to ban the AfD, its legal victory would cement its position as a legitimate player for the foreseeable future while weakening centrist parties. An anti-establishment narrative, having been effectively used as a political strategy by AfD since its inception, could be used by its leaders as a counter-response, mainly now as Germany heads into recession. Germany’s financial challenges can be attributed to rising energy costs and farmers’ strikes amid boiling resentment against Olaf Scholz’s administration, as evidenced by his coalition’s plummeting polling records and an increasingly polarised environment pitting the centrists against far-right extremists.


    While AfD’s proposal appears to be far-fetched, mainly given the multi-level criticism it has received publicly and the recent electoral defeat denoting dissatisfaction with its policies, it does have a growing presence and influence among certain segments. To keep the AfD at bay, other moderate political parties might become inclined to support policies to deter further immigration or even expel some migrants. In the European political sphere, mainstream politicians are increasingly courting the extremist conservative electorate. There has been a surge of far-right populism across countries such as Italy, Hungary and Sweden. The worsening socio-economic situation in Germany could also allow the AfD to refurbish its image as the least bad option to address growing concerns among the electorate, undermining the liberal rules-based order.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrrikar IDSA or of the Government of India.