Throughout campaigning for the national election last year the AfD positioned itself as the anti-refugee party. They spoke out for deporting rejected asylum seekers, closing Germany’s border and were against refugees offered subsidiary protection from being able to reunite with their families.
So naturally, when the Bundestag came to vote on family reunifications for people with subsidiary protection on Thursday, the whole AfD voted against a government bill which would allow for a small number of reunifications starting in August.
The AfD instead put forward their own bill which proposed that family reunifications should be completely abolished for people with subsidiary protection, many of whom are Syrians.
Strangely though, there appeared to be a rebel among the AfD’s number, none other than their own parliamentary manager, Bernd Baumann.
Baumann voted for the government bill, which continued a moratorium on family reunifications until the end of July. But the bill, which passed by a margin of 376 against 298, also stated that as of August, 1,000 direct relatives of refugees with subsidiary protection would be able to come to Germany each month.
On Friday the AfD told Spiegel that Baumann had not in fact had a Damascene conversion (no pun intended) but had made a mistake.
“The mistaken way in which he voted naturally does not reflect his political opinion,” AfD spokesman Christian Lüth said.
Allowing refugees to bring their families to Germany has been a point of contention in both rounds of coalition talks since the September election. The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) are dead against allowing for direct family to join loved ones in Germany, despite research showing that it would not lead to a sharp rise in new refugee arrivals.
Had Baumann’s unusual vote been intentional, he would not have been the first AfD politician to have a dramatic change of heart. A local politician for the far-right party made headlines in January when he quit the state executive board after deciding to convert to Islam.