Germany’s good deed gets punished

As this extract from the January 21, 2016, report by Der Spiegel staff proves, no good deed goes unpunished, and Germany’s naïve and self-destructive ‘good deed’ to welcome any and all comers is a sorry example of how.

The numbers reported by the federal government sound precise and consistent with German thoroughness. In truth, though, they are at best extremely approximate. Last year, up to 10,000 newcomers each day had to be sheltered and fed. It is understandable that officials were overwhelmed. But the lack of accurate statistics is also the product of the fact that almost every German state has its own solution when it comes to registering and distributing new arrivals.

A national registration system does exist called “Easy.” It says that a total of 1,091,894 asylum-seekers entered the country in 2015, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) reported two weeks ago. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that close to 1.1 million refugees have actually entered Germany. Experts believe the real figure could be tens, or even hundreds of thousands, lower because it is easy for registrations to be duplicated within the system.

“Easy” is the German abbreviation for Primary Distribution of Asylum-Seekers and it was designed exclusively to help spread the refugees out among the 16 federal states according to quotas set by the German government. New arrivals don’t even have to provide a name under the system. They only have to state their country of origin and their familial connection to other refugees.

Many new arrivals are simply waved into Germany by border officials without even taking any personal data. It often takes days after they enter into the country before they first come into contact with “Easy,” often in a refugee camp. In some cases, asylum-seekers are given temporary ID cards for the camps that include the name they provided. In others, they are just given colored wristbands that give them access to food and services.

In many places, refugees simply disappear soon after arrival, without anyone knowing where they’ve gone. The operators of some asylum-seeker camps, like one in the state of Hesse outside of Frankfurt, report a disappearance rate among refugees as high as 50 percent within the first two days after arrival.

The states are attempting to limit these fluctuations by taking steps to personally register refugees at an earlier stage. But even that isn’t helping much because it is being conducted according to disparate standards and using different software programs. For example, some states are taking fingerprints, but others are not. Generally, an automated exchange of data between the states is not currently possible, and neither is it possible to match data up with that of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), with the national asylum-seeker register maintained by the federal refugee office BAMF or the Europe-wide Eurodac refugee database.

Opportunities for Fraud

Those determined to do so, can thus secure duplicate social benefits, such as the €143 a month in pocket money, from the government without getting caught simply by registering in different states using either the same or different names. During each registration, the authorities issue a “Certificate of Registration as an Asylum-Seeker.” The simple paper is intended to serve as a kind of emergency identity card for the refugees, a temporary solution until they are able to get an appointment with BAMF to submit their official asylum application. Right now, it often takes months for that to happen.

Given the chaotic procedures that are currently in place, criminals can simply secure official papers for multiple identities. The suspected Islamist from an asylum-seekers’ hostel in Recklinghausen, Germany, who attacked police in Paris with an axe at the beginning of January on the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack is believed to have registered with the authorities using at least seven different names.

An investigation by the BKA also found that the man had applied for asylum in Switzerland and Romania. Europe’s Eurodac fingerprint database is intended to prevent this kind of situation. “We need to review whether the system failed,” says one official.

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