In the height of the Refugee Crisis, Germany was a leading nation in accepting asylum seekers. In 2015 alone it was reported that more than a million refugees had arrived in Germany, which was significantly more than any other European nation. A large majority of these refugees were from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. However, with this came a growing disapproval among Germans of the German government for allowing such numbers of refugees into Germany. As a result, German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced significantly lower approval ratings. Such disapproval and a growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany led to the rise of the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD).
The Alternative for Germany Party was founded in 2013, but gained popularity in the subsequent years as it seized on this anti-immigrant sentiment— consequently becoming more far-right. Their main platform was accusing Merkel of betrayal of the German people as she allowed foreign migrants into Germany. Adding to this, violence linked to migrants was spotlighted in the news cycle which gave momentum to the AfD. It grew quickly and by 2017 the AfD had become one of Germany’s largest opposition parties in Parliament. They have demanded that Germany develop permanent border controls and that the EU keep their external borders completely shut. As a majority of the refugees coming to Germany were Muslim, the party also seized on the idea that Germany would face the threat of “Islamization”. The party has proposed policies that target Muslim immigrants such as banning the burka and the Muslim call to prayer. Its xenophobia is evident in the rhetoric of some of the party’s leaders with one labeling the influx of refugees as “an invasion of foreigners”.
The use of anti-immigrant rhetoric and fear mongering is not unique to the Alternative for Germany Party. It has been a prominent political platform for many politicians and has notably been used by President Trump in the United States. Having run on the platform of building a border wall to stop the inflow of illegal immigrants and restricting Muslim immigrants, President Trump was able to capitalize on this fear which contributed to his election. His 2017 travel ban largely restricted travel from predominantly Muslim nations and was criticized by many for being xenophobic and targeting people because of their religion. President Trump has criticized Merkel’s actions of accepting large numbers of refugees and in a 2018 tweet stated that as a result, crime in Germany had significantly increased. However, this was untrue as Germany’s official figures showed crime to be at its lowest rate since 1992, showing no correlation between the influx of migrants and an increase in crime.
At a time when the Refugee Crisis and migration still proves to be one of the largest global issues, the influence of anti-immigrant sentiment on policies is a real threat. With the emergence of the Alternative for Germany Party and other far-right groups operating on the platform of anti-immigration and xenophobia, a dangerous political force is growing. Roots of such are also evident in the United States with anti-immigrant rhetoric being used by the President and a travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries paralleling the anti-Muslim sentiment of the AfD. It is extremely important to recognize the dangers of an anti-immigrant platform in politics and condemn any xenophobia that takes root in our governments and institutions all over the world.
Sources and Images:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37274201. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/09/04/merkel-trump-migration-europe/ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/world/europe/germany-election-afd.html https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/trump-takes-aim-merkel-over-immigration-crime-germany-n884221 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/19/a-majority-of-europeans-favor-taking-in-refugees-but-most-disapprove-of-eus-handling-of-the-issue/