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Scandal shakes German refugee authority: Cash for asylum

More than 25 000 asylum cases will have to be re-processed after Germany's Federal Office for Refugees and Migration (BAMF) became mired in a corruption scandal at its regional office in the northern city of Bremen.

Published: May 23, 2018, 7:50 am

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    Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced an audit after a former official at BAMF’s Bremen branch allegedly accepted cash bribes in exchange for granting asylum. Five more individuals, including three lawyers, an interpreter and an intermediary, are also being investigated.

    The three lawyers allegedly received cash payments from “refugees” across Germany and submitted their asylum applications to the Bremen office.

    At least 1200 refugees who did not meet the necessary criteria, were given refuge in Germany in exchange for cash.

    The corrupt interpreter “translated” asylum interviews so that the answers matched the requirements for a successful asylum application. He allegedly received €500 per asylum seeker.

    One Mohamad A, through the corrupt interpreter, claimed to be a Syrian refugee, whose sister was shot dead by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Two years later it emerged that Mohamad A had been lying not only about his nationality but also his victimhood. His name is actually Milad H and he is from Romania. He has never been to Syria.

    Many migrants who were granted asylum are considered to be potential security risks, according to the news magazine Der Spiegel. They include intelligence operatives, human traffickers and hard-core criminals and jihadists.

    The BAMF [Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge] relies on Muslim translators who deliberately sabotage Christian applicants by mistranslations during their interviews, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, president of the International Society for Human Rights.

    Schirrmacher cited the example of a convert who, when talking about Martin Luther and the Gospel of Matthew, the Muslim interpreter translated it to “Lothar Matthäus”, a well-known German footballer.

    Some 5 800 freelance interpreters — mostly migrants who are not proficient in German — are working for BAMF, according to Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. They were also hired without being vetted.

    BAMF director Jutta Cordt

    In May 2018, the public prosecutor of Nuremberg-Fürth opened a preliminary investigation for suspected aiding and abetting the unauthorized stay of migrants against BAMF director Jutta Cordt and three other senior BAMF employees.

    Cordt has meanwhile announced that a team of 70 in-house auditors will reevaluate 18 000 asylum decisions issued since 2000 by its Bremen branch. In addition, BAMF will reexamine another 8 500 decisions made in 2017 by ten other regional offices, Die Welt reported.

    The branches in question submitted a much higher number of asylum applications approved or denied, compared to other offices.

    Leaks of internal BAMF emails published by German daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung showed that Cordt and other senior BAMF officials knew about “suspicious cases” at the Bremen office as early as February 2017, but refused to act and waited until after the German elections held in September 2017. One month after the federal elections, in October 2017, BAMF quietly launched an internal audit.

    Immigration policy was a key issue during the election, launching the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) to become the third-largest party in the Bundestag, the German federal parliament. The corruption scandal would have boosted their votes if it had been known.

    Only after police had raided the homes and offices of the suspects on April 20, 2018, the scandal became public knowledge.

    Following the raid in April, BAMF fired more than 2000 freelance interpreters because they “did not appear to be neutral or were untrustworthy”. Some interpreters were even suspected of being spies for the Turkish government and were terminated for “violating their duty of neutrality”.

    Nine out of ten rejected asylum applications end up in court, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. In more than 40 percent of the cases, judges have overturned BAMF’s negative asylum decisions. In cases where Syrians have applied, judges have sided with 99.9 percent of them.

    Some 328 000 lawsuits were filed in 2017 — twice as many as in 2016. At the end of last year, some 372 000 asylum cases were still pending in German courts.

    It has become so bad that a Civey survey published by Die Welt on May 21 found that 79.7 percent of Germans had “almost no” confidence in BAMF’s asylum decisions. Only 8.9 percent said they had confidence in BAMF.

    The lack of trust in BAMF is shared by voters from all political parties.


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