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BAMF headquarters, Google maps; Horst Seehofer (Wikipedia)
Berlin

Fresh scandal erupts over migrant applications in Germany

A fresh scandal has erupted over fraudulent residency approvals for migrants by the German Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees (BAMF).

Published: May 30, 2018, 8:19 am

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    BAMF employees blamed executives in an open letter published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday for the widespread corruption in migrant applications. “The so-called executives, and not the low-ranking employees of the federal office, must be in focus,” said council chairman Rudolf Scheinost and deputy chairman Paul Müller in the open letter.

    It has been revealed that a criminal syndicate helped Nigerian immigrants get residency by providing Berlin authorities with fake papers. The immigration authority reportedly ignored internal warnings and kept approving the applications.

    The fresh allegations in the growing BAMF corruption scandal came to light on Tuesday, when Berlin broadcaster RBB reported that the Berlin branch of the BAMF had enabled immigration fraud for many years. The case is being investigated by Berlin prosecutors.

    The new allegations come in the wake of the negligence charges against the BAMF office in Bremen.

    The RBB reported that a criminal syndicate in Berlin had created fake identity documents for over 200 Nigerians to help them gain residency status in the country by sending the African migrants to the same BAMF office with a Portuguese woman who would claim to be their wife.

    According to EU law, the immediate family of EU citizens can be granted residency and a work permit if that person can prove that they are working in that country.

    Portuguese women were flown into Berlin for a BAMF appointment for which they were provided with fake papers that appeared to prove that they were working in Germany and also that they were married to the African seeking residency. Such applications were approved in most cases.

    Prosecutors believe that the marriage documents were faked in Nigeria, while the work contract was created by the ex-owner of a Berlin brothel.

    Their trick was used more than 200 times between 2015 and 2017, sometimes more than once in the same week. The same Portuguese “wife” even appeared for many of the appointments, producing a different set of identity papers.

    BAMF employees who spoke with RBB, said seniors staff had been warned on several occasions about possible corruption, but simply ignored their warnings. The Berlin Senate has denied the accusations that they had been allowing the fraud to continue for years.

    The Bremen office is meanwhile being investigated for taking bribes to ensure that over 1 200 asylum requests were approved, despite the applicants not meeting the requirements to stay in Germany.

    The BAMF central authority also tried to hide the extent of the fraud, fearing damage to its reputation.

    German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has promised extensive investigations into the matter, but critics say a special meeting of the Committee on Home Affairs is not enough.

    Following the investigations of Seehofer and Cordt, another special session has been announced.  But Andrea Lindholz, like several other Union politicians, stressed that an internal committee would not be an investigation committee.

    Former Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and former BAMF leader Frank-Jürgen Weise and Manfred Schmidt have not publicly commented on the allegations against BAMF.

    There is sadly no majority for an investigation committee to look into the BAMF affair. While the AFD and FDP parties have demanded a comprehensive investigation by a committee of inquiry, the Greens and the Union and SPD are dragging their heels. The leftists do clearly not want an inquiry committee.

    Setting up an investigation committee would need a quorum which the FDP and AfD together lack. Both parliamentary groups have 172 votes, while 177 of the 709 deputies are required.

    German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and BAMF chief Juta Cordt addressed a parliamentary committee on Tuesday to clarify the situation. The closed-doors hearing lasted five hours.

    Seehofer has proposed reforming the way asylum applications are handled. The former Bavarian state premier has also floated the idea of so-called reception centers where migrants would be processed upon arrival.

    A new probe into the scandal could see the backlog of asylum applications increase, since some 18 000 asylum applications which had been approved at the BAMF office in Bremen will now have to be reviewed.

    Cordt said pending applications are likely to rise to 80 000 cases, up from the current 50 000, because no new employees will be appointed to look into the fraud.

    TAZ, a leftist daily known for its pro-refugee sympathies, has called for a public enquiry. “The BAMF is the German authority which is most dangerous for societal peace if it messes up,” the newspaper stated on Monday.

    “This isn’t just about terrorists or criminals who could have used the authorities in Bremen to waltz into the country… in every village pub there will now be people saying ‘I told you so’ and others who no longer greet their Syrian neighbours.”

     

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