BERLIN (Reuters) - The hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party called on Monday for Germany's asylum and development aid policies to be restructured along "Germany First" lines and painted a dramatic picture of a society overwhelmed by migration.
Founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party, the AfD shifted its focus after the euro zone debt crisis peaked to campaigning against immigration after Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to open Germany's borders to a million refugees.
Polls suggest the party, on 8 percent in the most recent polls, has had only limited success selling its new program, despite widespread concern over the scale of the demographic change the influx brought to a country of 82 million.
Launching a plan for coupling asylum and development aid ahead of Sept. 24 elections, AfD vice-chairman Alexander Gauland said African countries should lose access to German development aid if they did not take back asylum seekers sent by Germany.
"In the U.S., they have America First, so we can have Germany First," Gauland told a news conference to launch the policy drive. "That is the aim of our development policy."
He said Germany should boost development spending with the aim of stabilizing turbulent countries that were currently a major source of refugees.
"We must use development aid so that the states of North Africa have an interest in taking their people back," he said. "If a country continues to refuse then there can be no reason to give that country development aid."
Alice Weidel, the party's candidate for chancellor, reeled off statistics that she said showed Germany was unable to cope with the scale of the influx, which she said would continue despite Merkel's reassurances to the contrary.
Asylum seekers were linked to overburdened healthcare and public administration as well as to a heightened risk of terrorism and higher crime rates, she said.
"In the crime category of murder, the number of suspects who were asylum seekers rose 100 percent - it doubled in one year," she said. "That is a scandal if you want our opinion," she said.
Official figures do show a doubling of cases in which one of the 1.4 million asylum seekers in Germany was a suspect in a murder case: from 34 to 75, although 80 percent of these cases are still open and may not end in convictions.
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Richard Balmforth)