A Chinese tourist on a grand tour of Europe was accidentally identified as a migrant and drawn into Germany’s migration system, finding himself locked in a migrant camp for two weeks after he attempted to report a crime.
The 31-year-old tourist, who spoke no English or German, had his wallet stolen while sightseeing in the country. But when attempting to report the theft he accidentally made the complaint in Heidelberg town hall rather than the police station. While signing a form he believed to be a crime report about his stolen possessions, the Chinese national was inadvertently signing a government asylum application, reports local paper the Dülmener Zeitung.
By signing the paper, the tourist set in motion a bureaucratic process from which he was unable to then escape — he was stripped of his Chinese passport and visa by the German authorities, given “refugee documents”, X-rayed, had his fingerprints scanned, and “medically examined”. Through this whole process, the tourist apparently did not offer resistance, nor was he able to ask for an explanation of what was happening.
Germany’s Rheinische Post reports the remarks of local Red Cross director Christoph Schlütermann who said because the Chinese man had “a lot of respect for authority”, he was “comfortable” having his documents taken and being examined after believing he reported a crime. “He simply did as he was told”, he said.
The unnamed man – who only spoke Mandarin – then spent nearly two weeks in a migrant centre in Dortmund where he was given a bed, fed daily, and given pocket-money by the German state. It was only when he was transferred by bus to another migrant camp in Dülmen that it was noticed he stood out from the rest of the crowd. Mr. Schlütermann said: “He was so different from the others. Very, very helpless”. The Red Cross official said he seemed unusually polite and “well dressed” for a migrant.
Using a mobile phone translation app, the staff were able to make basic communication with the man, when he told them “I want to walk to Italy”. The meaning of this was not entirely clear until Red Cross staff sent for a native Mandarin speaker who worked at a local Chinese restaurant, and were able to discover that the accidental refugee just wanted to continue his holiday to Rome and then Paris.
To add a final turn to the tourist’s ordeal, even when his mistake was discovered he still had to be detained longer because his entry visa had been lost within the German immigration system.
The Westdeutscher Rundfunk reports that after the mistake was corrected, the Chinese tourist “said goodbye politely” to his former keepers and did not press charges against the German government. Despite that, he said before visiting the continent that he’d imagined Europe would be different to how he’d found it.
Germany’s immigration services have been creaking under the strain of unprecedented levels of mass migration since early 2015. The government deploying army and police units to the borders has hardly eased the strain, and the backlog for getting asylum applications processed can now take many months. Breitbart London reported on the crisis last year when officers were totally overwhelmed by the number of migrants they had to process, hampered by a lack of personnel and obsolete computer equipment.