Germany’s justice minister is planning to toughen German immigration laws to try to curb "fake paternities" alleged by foreign women seeking permission to stay in Germany.
A child with a German father can be a ticket into the country
According to the justice ministry, abuses of this loophole in German immigration and welfare law have increased.
It now wants to allow authorities greater scope in investigating suspicious cases.
Paying men to adopt
Since 1998, foreign women giving birth to a baby in Germany have been given residence status if a German claimed to be the father.
A German father means German citizenship
According to estimates, up to 1,600 foreign women are year have been granted entry into Germany since immigration officials stopped checking paternity claims.
The justice ministry says some of those women arrived in Germany days before giving birth, and paid German men to adopt their babies.
Foreign babies born in Germany are automatically given German citizenship and their mothers cannot be deported if the father is a German.
Many paternity claims are false
Less dramatically, the loophole was also exploited by foreign men who paid German single mothers to be able to adopt their children.
Those Germans who received payments were mostly welfare recipients, so the justice ministry is also looking at benefit fraud in connection with fake paternities.
Brigitte Zypries plans to get tough
Proposals by Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries to toughen immigration laws are a focus of discussions among justice ministers from all 16 of Germany's federal states.
They include an expansion of the powers of immigration authorities to investigate families which may have broken paternity laws.
The new regulations are also intended to make it easier for authorities to press for genetic testing to resolve paternity cases. Crime experts say that there is already a grey market offering fake paternities in Germany including legal advice about how to acquire a residence status.
They say the practice has already sharpened the interest of organized crime, and that action by the justice authorities must be taken swiftly.