BERLIN — Each day trains full of Syrian refugees arrive from southern Europe. They have escaped war, the barrel bombs of Bashar al-Assad's regime and the terror of ISIS. But in Germany, it's not just aid organizations and volunteer humanitarian workers awaiting them. There are also the Salafists, who see them as potential recruits for their fanatical religious convictions.
Pierre Vogel, a German-born convert and Salafi leader living in Bergheim, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has published a list of recommendations for the followers within this Sunni Muslim movement specifying the most effective techniques for approaching and recruiting refugees. Vogel advises followers to locate and visit, in groups, all surrounding refugee camps.
He further claims to know how to win over destitute refugees: "Bring gifts," he advises. He also suggests they offer help to the workers at the refugee camps or to meet refugees at nearby mosques.
Vogel (in foreground) speaks to German media. Photo: Pierre Vogel Facebook
Vogel is not alone. There are other recruiters too. People have been spotted close to the refugee camps, distributing the Koran. In Hamburg, they have openly contacted refugees in a reception center for asylum seekers.
Though the Salafi movement is actively drafting followers in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, their spreading propaganda around refugee camps is not yet a mass phenomenon.
Their goal is to hinder integration and to religiously radicalize the refugees. State officials say they are taking measures to create awareness and properly inform the staff and residents of refugee camps about Salafism.
"The workers should recognize Salafist behavior, their codes and clothing, and report any suspicious event," one official says. "From what we know, Salafis have, in some individual cases, tried to contact refugees on the pretext of offering help."
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has not yet identified a core area for the Salafi publicity campaign, but it has confirmed that Salafist activity has been detected in Dortmund, also in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. That's where the majority of refugees arriving to the state are provided with first aid before being sent to Germany's main cities.
With the number of Muslim refugees on the rise for the foreseeable future, they can expect to be prime targets of these religious fanatics.