German authorities are looking into a spate of unusual cases in which jobless German men have used a legal loophole to assume fake paternities of foreign children and make a tidy sum of money.
The German fathers in question haven't really been spending time with their kids
A few years ago, the case of a German pensioner drawing on generous social welfare while living it up in a beach-front apartment in Florida triggered widespread indignation in Germany and a change in the country's welfare laws.
Now, in an echo of the "Florida Rolf" case, it's emerged that jobless male Berliners are using a loophole in a child rights law of 1998 to make some cash. The law allows men to assume paternity when the mother is willing and no other man steps forward to declare himself the father.
No paternity tests required
A report in newsmagazine Der Spiegel said the law served to help single mothers without German citizenship to stay in the country if they presented a German father to their children. In return, the German men often received money as a gesture of thanks from the women.
The law is said to be misused by young single foreign women
"We're aware of such cases," Thomas Blesing, city councilor of the Neukölln district in Berlin told news agency dpa. "These women are often threatened with deportation and so they present a German man who says he's the father of their children."
Since the law doesn't prescribe paternity tests, the authorities are forced to accept the statements of both the mother and the false father, Blesing added. Once the German father steps forward and assumes fatherhood, the foreign child can get German citizenship almost immediately.
The mother can thus stake a claim to childcare handouts and social welfare, including healthcare for her children. Usually, she then gets the right to residence in order to look after her children.
"A thorn in our side"
Blesing added that German men were often illegally paid a generous sum for assuming fake paternities and some even deliberately fathered children in different German cities in order to avoid making the authorities suspicious.
Jobless fathers are said to make thousands of euros through the law
"Something like this can get unemployed men around 15,000 euros ($19,100) a year," he said. Blesing said it was difficult to estimate the exact number of cases where the law was abused. "But it's quite a considerable number," he said. "It's a thorn in our side."
German wants to father 1,000 foreign children
Der Spiegel reported on the case of a man from the Rhine River region who plans to assume paternity by the end of the year of 1,000 foreign children from poor countries.
The man, Jürgen Hass, wants to give the kids an opportunity to study and get access to the German social welfare system by declaring them his own.
A former politician with the free-market liberal FDP, Hass has said he wants to help the children, but also underlined that he wants to lead a "personal, private retribution campaign" against the German state. Hass was apparently jailed for three years in 1987 for fraud, though he says he was innocent.
The paternity adventure of unemployed German men might come to an end sooner rather than later. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries introduced legislation in early April to put a stop to such "false fatherhoods."