Asylum scandal rocks German refugee agency

asylum seekers

A regional office of the German Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) is suspected of having illicitly granted asylum in which applicants did not meet the necessary criteria, German media reported on Friday.

According to the reports, a senior Bamf employee in Bremen reached incorrect positive verdicts in around 2,000 asylum application cases between 2013 and 2017. Initial revelations put the figure lower at 1,200 cases. The unnamed individual accused of reaching the false decisions unilaterally has now been suspended from the role.

The Bremen State Prosecution Office confirmed that it was investigating one Bamf employee, as well as three attorneys and one translator who are believed to have cooperated systematically in subverting the course of justice. The suspects face criminal charges of corruption and organized incitement of filing fraudulent asylum applications.

Responding to the scandal on Friday, the German federal government said that there were “well-founded suspicions” of improper conduct by the Bamf Bremen office. Nevertheless, Steffen Seibert, the official spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said that it was too early to discuss potential political consequences before judiciary authorities completed their independent investigatory work.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry further emphasized that the accusations only concerned an “isolated case”. Bamf had filed a self-denunciation after discovering suspicious behaviour and was cooperating closely with investigators.

Media cited information that the Bremen office was only formally responsible for around 98 of the 2,000 cases improperly-awarded asylum. In the remaining cases, applicants were specially transported to the Bamf employee from other states like Lower Saxony and North-Rhine Westphalia and returned there again after having received approval of their asylum applications.

Investigations into the matter were first launched when the deportation of a refugee family in Lower Saxony was prevented at the last minute with a positive certificate of asylum from Bremen.
The decision was subsequently overturned by an administrative court in Hannover, prompting the state of Lower Saxony to issue a complaint about irregularities in the assessment of asylum cases in Bremen. The regional Bamf office has an unusually high approval rate of 96 percent, compared to 62 percent across other German states.

Many of the individuals which were illicitly granted asylum were reportedly members of the Yazidi religious minority. Yazidis have been subject to violent persecution by the so-called “Islamic State” in their homelands of northern Iraq and northern Syria, including mass-executions and the forced prostitution of women and girls.

It remains unclear so far whether and to what extent the Bamf employee or the attorneys involved were financially remunerated for granting asylum in Germany. Enditem

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