Fired German migration chief relegated to Interior Ministry | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.09.2018
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Germany

Fired German migration chief relegated to Interior Ministry

The disgraced former head of Germany's migration agency has been demoted with a hefty pay cut. The scandal that engulfed her paled in comparison to the outrage over the top spy chief, who lost his job but kept his pay.

Jutta Cordt was given a new job in the Interior Ministry in charge of a subsection on digitalization, according to a Bild newspaper report on Wednesday. The position means that she will receive a monthly salary cut of €1,700 ($2,000) as she shifts several levels down the pay scale for civil servants.

In June, the 55-year-old lawyer was sacked as head of Germany's Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF), a job she had been appointed to by the Interior Ministry. Under Cordt's watch, a corruption scandal at the Bremen branch of BAMF provoked feverish media attention and a drop in public trust in the country's migration authorities and contributed to tensions within Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The scandal was sparked by prosecutors in Bremen, who reported that officials at the local BAMF branch were being investigated for taking bribes from asylum-seekers in exchange for favorable decisions. Subsequent investigations indicated that the Bremen office had violated guidelines in numerous cases — such as failing to conduct security background checks — but was not corrupt, nor had it made 1,200 wrong asylum decisions, as had been alleged. The infractions had taken place in the years before Cordt became head of the BAMF.

Interior minister's discretion

The news of Cordt's demotion comes days after an eleventh-hour meeting of Germany's top three politicians prompted by public outrage that embattled domestic spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen, 55, had been dismissed from his job only to be granted a better paying one as deputy interior minister. Merkel, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) and Social Democratic Party chief Andrea Nahles defused the anger by deciding that Maassen would become a special adviser to Seehofer and retain his previous monthly salary of about €11,600, without the €2,500 increase he would have received.

Hans-Georg Maassen and Horst Seehofer (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

Seehofer (right) has stood behind Maassen through thick and thin

Maassen had come under fire after he questioned the veracity of video footage of some of the far-right violence that erupted in the city of Chemnitz earlier in September. Seehofer defended Maassen throughout the affair, which was a difficult test for Germany's fragile ruling coalition, already weakened by a series of conflicts. He had fired Cordt shortly after the scandal at the Bremen BAMF office came to light.

As interior minister, Seehofer has discretion to set salary levels as he sees fit for appointees to positions such as those held by Maassen and Cordt, Frank Zitka, of the dbb civil servants union umbrella organization, told DW.

The ministry made waves soon after Seehofer became its head in March when it posted a photo on its website of Seehofer alongside his eight deputy ministers, all men. The photo was removed from the page after provoking a furor on social media.

The government agreed in its coalition deal that it would achieve a gender balance in leading positions throughout Germany's civil service by 2025.

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