A German Far-Right Group Aids Syrian Refugees — To Stop Them From Reaching Europe A far-right movement is providing aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but not for purely humanitarian reasons. The few refugees who received help didn't know the group aims to keep them out of Germany.
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A German Far-Right Group Aids Syrian Refugees — To Stop Them From Reaching Europe

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A German Far-Right Group Aids Syrian Refugees — To Stop Them From Reaching Europe

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Syrian refugees who are in Lebanon need all the help they can get. But now they're getting it from a group of anti-immigration extremists from Germany. This group's help comes with a catch. For them, it's part of an effort to keep Muslims out of Europe. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley where she went to meet some refugees.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Raja and her family are refugees from Syria. She's afraid to give her last name but invites us into her simple home next to some tents where other refugees live.

RAJA: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: Over coffee, she tells us about the two young German men who arrived at her door some months ago. They told her they were researchers for a charity.

RAJA: (Through interpreter) They seemed fine. They just wanted to come in and film the house. We said we have nothing to hide. They filmed everything, even the kitchen.

SHERLOCK: The men are actually connected to a far-right group in Germany that calls itself the Identitarian Movement. It wants to stop families like Raja's from coming to Europe.

RAJA: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: She says she wouldn't have let them in if she'd known. Her sister-in-law, Mouna, says she'd like to beat them up.

MOUNA: (Speaking Arabic, laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHERLOCK: The men used the footage of children in Raja's home in a slick new video they posted online to pitch their new plan - give aid in Lebanon to stop refugees coming to Europe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking German).

SHERLOCK: They call the effort the Alternative Help Association, or AHA. Sven Engeser is in the Identitarian Movement, a leader of AHA and one of the men who came to Raja's home. He says they told people they were a relief organization focused on local help. Now back in Germany, I reach him by Skype.

SVEN ENGESER: We want to save our borders because of the mass immigration to Europe. I think we lost our identity.

SHERLOCK: He rejects the label far-right. He says he's a, quote, "patriot," which to him means stopping immigrants, especially Muslims, migrating to Europe.

ENGESER: We want to stop Muslim migration to Europe and to stop support them in Germany. It's a problem because it's not easy to integrate them, and Europe is a Christian continent.

SHERLOCK: Simone Rafael is from the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, a Berlin-based group that researches extremist movements. She says though the Identitarians try to cloak it, they are part of Germany's far-right.

SIMONE RAFAEL: What they really want is that these ideas are main principles for the whole society in Germany, which they aren't. And so they try to hide their intentions to gain more influence.

SHERLOCK: She says they promote racism and are so Islamophobic that they don't even consider Muslim citizens Germans. Rafael says authorities are watching the group, worried that though it may number just a few hundred, it has extremist connections and a growing reach on social media. And German aid organizations have warned their partners in Lebanon to steer clear of AHA.

TILL KUSTER: What they do is they misuse the need of refugees in Lebanon for their political goals.

SHERLOCK: Till Kuster from the German nonprofit Medico International believes AHA is largely an exercise to win the group more support in Germany. There are lots of other groups, including the United Nations, spending hundreds of millions on Syrians in Lebanon. Right now, AHA admits it's only raised enough funds to pay the rent for 10 refugee families. For some, that's around a hundred dollars a month to live in a tent. Um Mahmoud is one of the recipients who also asks not to use her full name.

UM MAHMOUD: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: She's a widow and lives with her disabled daughter in a basic tent. In the summer heat, it's stifling inside.

It's too hot, isn't it?

MAHMOUD: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: Um Mahmoud says the rent payment isn't enough to keep her in Lebanon. She'd still go to Europe if she could. I ask her which country she wants to go to.

MAHMOUD: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: "Germany," she replies. "Isn't that the best?" Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

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