Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), holds flowers at the end of the second day of the AfD congress in Stuttgart, Germany, May 1, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - The head of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) says Berlin should send rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to islands outside Europe and turn its refugee office into an emigration bureau.
The influx of over one million migrants last year fuelled support for the AfD, which now has seats in eight of Germany's 16 state assemblies and is expected to make a strong showing in state votes next month in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Party leader Frauke Petry made the suggestions in an interview with the Bild newspaper published on Saturday.
"Illegal migrants and asylum seekers whose applications are rejected will be accommodated on the two islands outside Europe that are protected by the United Nations," Petry added, without naming the two islands she had in mind.
German media interpreted her remarks as a reference to Nauru and Manus, two Pacific islands where Australia funds camps to hold asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach its shores by boat. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.
"I propose the transformation of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees into an office for emigration, which ensures that all illegal migrants leave this land as soon as possible," Petry added.
The refugee office has been overwhelmed since last year with hundreds of thousands of asylum applications.
Known for her fiery speeches to AfD supporters, Petry sparked an uproar earlier this year when she called for German police to be allowed to use firearms against illegal migrants.
Most of the more than one million migrants who arrived in Germany last year are refugees escaping war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
(Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Tom Heneghan)