German far-right party meets Austrian extremist, denies mass immigrant deportation plan

Investigative report finds Austrian white pride leader presented plan to remove migrants, asylum seekers

File: Election placards for the far-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party are tied to lamp posts in Berlin ahead of elections, January 2, 2024. (John MacDougall/AFP)
File: Election placards for the far-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party are tied to lamp posts in Berlin ahead of elections, January 2, 2024. (John MacDougall/AFP)

BERLIN, Germany — Officials from Germany’s far-right AfD attended a meeting with an Austrian extremist leader, the party confirmed Wednesday, but denied any plans to adopt a proposal for mass deportations of immigrants reportedly discussed at the talks.

Citing undercover research, investigative media outlet Correctiv had reported that Martin Sellner, who leads the white pride Identitarian Movement in Austria, had presented a plan to “reverse the inward migration of foreigners,” and remove migrants and asylum seekers instead.

He also reportedly suggested that when the AfD came into power, the biggest “problem” for the party would be the expulsion of “non-assimilated citizens.”

The meeting near Potsdam had gathered politicians, lawyers and doctors alike, according to Correctiv.

Sellner confirmed his presence at the talks, telling AFP, “It was the end of November and I presented my book and the Identitarian concept of remigration there.”

The Austrian added that his “concept targeted migrants who are not assimilated, or who culturally, economically and criminally weigh on society.”

Austrian white pride leader Martin Sellner in an interview, aired April 25, 2017. (SBS screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Identitarian movement subscribes to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory claiming a plot by non-white migrants to replace Europe’s “native” white population, something that the nationalist extremists want to stop.

The AfD said Roland Hartwig, who is an aide of co-leader Alice Weidel, had presented a social media project at the meeting.

But the far-right group said Hartwig did not “bring Mr. Sellner’s ideas on migration policies” into the party, and added that it “would not change its immigration policies based on the individual ideas of a speaker at the meeting.”

According to Correctiv, one of the AfD participants had claimed the party was no longer opposed to dual citizenship, as “you can then take away the German one, and they’d still have one.”

Created in 2013 as an anti-euro outfit before morphing into an anti-immigration party, the AfD entered parliament for the first time in 2017 on the back of discontent over a huge influx of migrants, many fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq.

Support for the party slid to around 10 percent in the 2021 election, but it has since regained ground as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition struggles with an energy crisis, massive inflation and an ailing economy in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Concerns have also grown over the appeal of the party ahead of regional elections expected this autumn in the states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, where support for the far-right party has traditionally been strongest.

A spokeswoman from Germany’s Interior Ministry declined to comment on the Correctiv report, but underlined that the domestic intelligence agency was following “further developments of the AfD very closely.”

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