Berlin Christmas Market attacker Anis Amri broke asylum rules, committed benefit fraud, and was issued immigration documents under a false name – but the head of Germany’s asylum agency denies any in-house negligence.
“Amri has not slipped through the cracks of BAMF,” asserted Frank-Jürgen Weise, the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. However, German media reports the jihadist disobeyed almost all of the immigration authority’s rules and continued to do so even after BAMF and intelligence services met to discuss the Tunisian months before Amri ploughed a truck through a busy Christmas market killing 12 and injuring over 50.
Der Spiegel reports that Amri had been living in Berlin since February 2016, but registered for asylum in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) in April, despite asylum rules stating that applicants remain in the district in which they claim asylum for at least three months during processing.
Amri was also being investigated in Berlin for obtaining benefits fraudulently under the name “Ahmad Zaghoul,” and for punching a guard.
Amri’s application for asylum was rejected as his claims of persecution were determined “manifestly unfounded,” in part as his assumed identity – as an Egyptian – was proven false. BAMF’s own interpreter even noted Amri did not have an Egyptian accent at all.
However, the Tunisian was granted a “certificate of toleration” or “temporary suspension of deportation” – an immigration status that makes deportation impossible on grounds of illness, missing documentation, or in the case of Amri, because the claimant’s home country will not or cannot confirm his identity.
Papers from Tunisia that would have allowed for his deportation were received on Wednesday 21 December – two days after his deadly attack.
Against the backdrop of Amri’s interactions with BAMF, security services were monitoring the Tunisian on suspicion of planning to carry out an act of terror. A meeting between BAMF and the Joint Counterterrorism Centre (GTAZ) was conducted in March and at the request of security authorities, BAMF let Amri continue believing that the agency did not know his real name.
The Foreigners’ Office in Kleve then issued a certificate of toleration – for Ahmed Almasri.
“We are still in the middle of the work-up and we have to look at all the details carefully, only then can we make a final evaluation,” said BAMF president Weise, adding, “The case of Amri is an occasion to re-examine some processes in our house.”
MP for Berlin and member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that illegal migrants like Amri play the German asylum system and should not be in the country in the first place.
Die Zeit reports that as of the end of this year BAMF estimates nearly 450,000 asylum applications are still pending review. BAMF also currently has 200,000 foreigners, including failed asylum seekers, holding a certificate of toleration.