Migrants with recognised refugee status are holidaying in the countries they supposedly “fled”, with their vacations funded by German taxpayers, a newspaper has found.
Newspaper Welt am Sonntag learnt that migrants are returning to countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Lebanon for holiday purposes, then travelling back to Germany where they continue to receive comfortable welfare payments.
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has been aware for some time that some recognised refugees are taking leisure trips to the very spots they claim their lives are in danger.
The government body sent a written request to Berlin’s employment agencies in June, asking that they report the travel arrangements of migrants granted asylum holidaying in their countries of origin.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Employment Agency confirmed that “there are such cases” but reports that there is “no analysis or statistics on this subject and therefore we do not have information”.
The lack of information is down to data protection laws. But people who are familiar with the processes report that it is also happening in other regions of Germany.
Hartz IV, the welfare system migrants granted asylum receive, allows 21 days per year “local absence” where recipients collect full welfare payments while away from their usual area.
Receivers of Hartz IV must “notify the local absence, the expected duration, but not exactly where they go to,” the federal agency said, adding that “there is also no legal basis to demand this information.”
Welt am Sonntag reported that even if the migrant told welfare centre staff he was taking a trip to Syria, data protection laws would prevent this information being passed on to the federal agency.
Germany’s Interior Ministry indicates that European Union rules state that travel to so-called countries of persecution can lead to individual cases being looked at and, ultimately, asylum being withdrawn.
A spokesman from the ministry said there may be reasonable grounds for such trips, such as a family member’s serious illness.
“In the case, however, to travel for leisure purposes, this may be an indication that for the refugee no fear of persecution exists,” the spokesman added.
Armin Schuster, chairman of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, said it “leaves one almost speechless” that migrants are holidaying in the countries they supposedly fled qualify for asylum.
Mr. Schuster said he could imagine only a few cases where a brief return would be acceptable, but commented that it’s “imperative that we continue to permit the refugees to apply for such a trip, and to be approved by BAMF.”
Despite the narrative which portrays migrants arriving in Europe as having fled for their lives, researchers have found increasing numbers are wanting to return to their home countries, dissatisfied with the standard of accommodation and welfare they are given on the continent.