When Governments Try To Help

The most frightening sentence in any language is “I’m from the Government and I’m going to help you.” Lose your wallet in Germany and you could find yourself in immigration detention for two weeks until someone notices you don’t look like a refugee (and that would be labelled racist in many places).

From the ABC:

Chinese tourist mistaken for asylum seeker in Germany after losing wallet

A Chinese tourist got tangled up in the red tape of Germany’s migrant influx by mistake and was stuck in a refugee home for nearly two weeks, the Red Cross says.

Officials thought the backpacker, who spoke neither German nor English, “needed help” after landing in Stuttgart Airport in south-west Germany on July 4, Christoph Schluetermann of the German Red Cross said.

The 31-year-old man, who had lost his wallet, was taken to a reception centre in the nearby town of Heidelberg.

There, he unwittingly filled out an asylum request form, following the local authorities’ instructions, Mr Schluetermann said.

On July 6, he was transferred to a reception centre in the western city of Dortmund, where his passport was taken from him.

He was then moved to another shelter in Duelmen near the Dutch border.

“Machinery kicked into gear from which he couldn’t immediately escape,” Mr Schluetermann told news agency DPA.

Public broadcaster WDR said the man complied with standard procedure for refugees, including allowing his fingerprints to be taken, undergoing a medical examination and accepting pocket money.

Chinese restaurant called on for help

But staff eventually noticed that the man was unusually well-dressed for an asylum seeker and when the likelihood of a mistake dawned on them, sought help at a local Chinese restaurant.

The owners suggested Mr Schluetermann try using a Mandarin smartphone translation app and it soon became clear that the man did not want asylum but to continue his European tour.

“I want to go walking in a foreign country,” one of the translated messages said, WDR reported.

Twelve days into his stay in Germany, the man was able to set off for France and Italy.

Germany let in nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, posing an enormous challenge for its overstretched bureaucracy.

“It isn’t how I imagined Europe,” WDR cited the tourist as saying.

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