By Thomas Escritt and Andreas Rinke
BERLIN (Reuters) -The far-right opposition party Alternative for Germany said on Wednesday it had no plans to pursue deportation of “unassimilated” immigrants with passports if it wins power, after investigative portal Correctiv said that was aired at a meeting.
Correctiv said Roland Hartwig, personal assistant to AfD leader Alice Weidel, and Ulrich Siegmund, party leader in Saxony Anhalt state, met neo-Nazi influencers and wealthy businessmen late last year in a hotel near Berlin.
At the meeting, Martin Sellner, an Austrian leader of the far-right Identitarian Movement, had proposed a project of “remigration”, whereby some immigrants could be forced to leave Germany – even if they had citizenship.
Also floated was an idea for deportees to be sent to a “model state” in North Africa, Correctiv said, citing hidden camera footage, attendees and reporters staking out the hotel.
The AfD confirmed that Hartwig was present at the meeting but said that the reported proposals were not party policy. Siegmund did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
“The AfD won’t change its position on immigration policy because of a single opinion at a non-AfD meeting,” the party told Reuters.
Sellner confirmed he was at the meeting but denied proposing anything illegal. “I made very clear that no distinctions can be made between citizens – that there can be no second-class citizens – and that all remigration measures have to be legal,” he told Reuters in an e-mail.
“Unassmilated citizens like Islamists, gangsters and welfare cheats should be pushed to adapt through a policy of standards and assimilation,” he added, saying that could include incentives for voluntary return.
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Correctiv said Hartwig told participants the party was prepared to contribute financially to an idea floated at the meeting for an agency for right-wing influencers to help mould youth opinion ahead of elections to the European Parliament and regional assemblies later this year. The AfD did not immediately respond to a request to comment on this.
The official manifesto of the AfD, which is surging in opinion polls, seeks faster deportations of declined asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
The party is vying with the opposition conservatives for first place in some polls, profiting from disillusionment at Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s fractious coalition’s economic struggles.
But the AfD is under investigation in several states and at risk of being declared extremist, a move that could lead to it being banned. The party denies racism.
Correctiv named entrepreneur Hans Christian Limmer, part owner of the snackbar chain Hans im Glueck, as one of the people who convened the meeting.
“I had no role in the organisation or planning,” he said in an email to Reuters.
However, the chain said its owners had accepted his offer to end involvement in the firm to avoid negative fallout.
Alexander von Bismarck, a descendent of Germany’s 19th century founding chancellor, was also named by Correctiv as a participant. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution declined comment on Correctiv’s report.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Sarah Marsh and Thomas Escritt; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Andrew Cawthorne)