(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
BERLIN - Lawmakers from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) are on a fact-finding trip to Syria, said members of the anti-immigrant group, which wants Syria to be classified a safe country of origin in a move that would make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers.
Syrians make up the biggest single group of asylum seekers among the more than a million migrants fleeing war and poverty who have arrived in Europe's largest economy since mid-2015.
The migrant influx, facilitated by Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to open Germany's borders, was a boon for the anti-immigrant AfD. It won 12.6 percent in September's election, becoming the biggest opposition party and the first far-right group to sit in the German parliament since the 1960s.
A statement by the lawmakers posted on the Facebook page of Christian Blex, an AfD parliamentarian in the regional assembly of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said that he and six other AfD members - some of them lawmakers in the national parliament - were on a private visit to Syria from March 5.
"The experiences the MPs gain will enable them to rationally evaluate the situation in Syria regarding continuing discussions about classifying it as a safe country of origin, which would also affect the decision about halting deportations of rejected asylum seekers," the statement said.