Far-right German MPs planning trip to Syria to 'show that refugees can return'
Germany hosts over half a million Syrian refugees, most of whom arrived in the country after 2015. The refugees were fleeing the ongoing Syrian conflict, which started after the regime of President Bashar al-Assad suppressed peaceful pro-democracy protests.
On Monday, four members of the German parliament from the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) will fly to Damascus to meet representatives of Bashar al-Assad's regime.
This will be the second trip by AfD members to Syria this year. A previous trip took place in March and the AfD also organised a visit to Syria in 2018.
On this visit, AfD members hope to take pictures to show that Syria is a peaceful country and use them in a media campaign in Germany to push for a "re-migration policy" which will see Syrians "voluntarily" repatriated to their country, according to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
The AfD party are also campaigning for the normalisation of Germany's relations with the Assad regime and say that it should be "recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people".
The party wants Russia's influence over Syria to be recognised and for Germany to cooperate with Russia over the Syrian issue.
The AfD received negative press coverage in Germany last March when it was found to be employing Kevork Almassian, a Syrian propagandist for the Assad regime who admitted emigrating to Germany for economic reasons and campaigned against other Syrian refugees, referring to them as "hostile Islamists".
Refugees from Syria who return to their country face detention, torture and execution. Approximately 20 Syrian refugees who returned to their country from Lebanon were killed by regime forces between June and November 2018, according to former Lebanese refugee affairs minister Mouin Meherbi.
The Assad regime still regularly arrests political opponents and forcibly conscripts young men into its army. One of the main reasons why young men in particular have fled Syria is to avoid being forced to fight against fellow Syrians.
The regime and Russia also regularly carry out airstrikes against rebel-held areas. Five people, including three children were killed today in a strike on the town of Al-Bara in Idlib province.