German authorities have accused a former employee at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) of approving 1,200 asylum cases even though they did not meet relevant requirements. The government has announced consequences.
- An investigation for graft and corruptibility has been launched into a total of six people: the former manager of the BAMF office in Bremen, three lawyers from Bremen and the state of Lower Saxony, an interpreter and another suspect who is believed to have directed the asylum seekers to the lawyers as a go-between.
- The former BAMF employee is accused of improperly granting asylum in 1,200 cases between 2013 and 2017, largely for members of the Yazidi religious minority who came from Syria.
- The lawyers are accused of inducing the applicants to file for asylum in Bremen where they subsequently received protection status „despite formal and material defects“, media cited an internal paper from security authorities on Monday.
- The asylum seekers had not been supposed to file for asylum in Bremen. The suspicion is that they were targeted and brought from other parts of Germany to make their applications in Bremen, even though that office was not responsible for them.
- Media reports over the weekend cited the number of improper decisions to be as high as 2,000 based on formal investigations that have been going on for some months.
How did German authorities react and what will happen next?
- The Interior Ministry has announced there would be an immediate check on the asylum decisions taken. "The approval decisions taken in the BAMF office will
now be checked as quickly as possible and withdrawn where necessary," said
Stephan Mayer, the parliamentary secretary of state in the ministry.
- Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has announced the installation of an independent investigative commission to look into the issue. He said that it’s up to the government „to ensure law and order in asylum processes to prevent possible mistakes in the present and the future“, according to news agency KNA.
- Seehofer also said that any authority could contact him should they be aware of any irregularities in asylum cases. „Every major, every district administrator, every foreigner’s agency … can relay that information to the Interior Ministry in Berlin.“
- A member of the Free Democrats (FDP) for internal affairs, Linda Teuteberg, says the investigative committee should not only look at the violations committed by individuals but should further investigate „systematic shortcomings at the refugee agency“. AFP quotes Teuteberg as saying that „nationwide sampling of former asylum decisions, positive and negative ones“ is necessary.
- A first report by the investigative committee should be handed over to the German government by the summer, FDP’s Teuteberg said.
More negative headlines at the BAMF
- In response to a recent inquiry by the Left Party in Parliament, the Interior Ministry reported that the BAMF has ended cooperation with more than 2,100 translators since last year. In 30 cases, the termination happened because the translators had violated the code of conduct and there had been problems with their neutrality and trustworthiness. In about 2,100 cases, the translators were released mainly due to a lack of qualifications.
- The BAMF is under the rule of the German Interior Ministry which has been headed by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) since 13 years.
- All asylum decisions are made by the BAMF; all those who apply for asylum in Germany are interviewed by employees at the BAMF
- In response to the refugee influx in 2015 and 2016, the BAMF hired and trained thousands of new employees including translators and deciders. Logistical and administrative problems persisted nonetheless, leading to a huge backlog in applications over recent years.