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Germany's top police join Bremen refugee corruption probe

May 25, 2018

The Federal Criminal Police are now part of the inquiry into 1,200 suspect asylum cases. The Bremen refugee office has been stripped of its authority over allegations of bribery and a cover-up.

German police
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/ZB/M. Toedt

The city of Bremen announced on Friday that a wide-ranging corruption probe would receive the support of Germany's Federal Criminal Police.

The decision came after a crisis meeting on the scandal surrounding the city's asylum procedure for refugees. Between 2013 and 2016, employees allegedly granted asylum to 1,200 refugees who should have been refused. There are also claims that bribes changed hands in the process.

Jutta Cordt, the head of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), has refused to comment on the situation, saying she was saving her statement for a session of the Bundestag's Internal Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has halted all asylum applications currently pending in Bremen until further notice and stripped the city's refugee office of its authority. The only comment BAMF has made on how it plans to resolve the situation was to say that some 50 senior staff members are currently receiving "extra training."

80 percent of Germans mistrust refugee agency

Adding fuel to the fire of speculation is the revelation that a former BAMF official had been fired shortly after noting the irregularities to her superiors. Julia Schmid was sent to the Bremen office in January 2017. Shortly after arriving, she reported a further 200 suspicious cases to the federal refugee office — and four months into her tenure, she was removed from her post.

Both Seehofer and Cordt are due to speak to parliament on Tuesday. Although the pair have faced intense criticism, neither were in their current roles when the corruption reportedly took place. However, there have also been allegations that federal authorities knew about the problem much earlier than they have let on.

As a result of the findings, 79.7 percent of Germans reportedly no longer completely trust the BAMF to carry out its mandate, according to a poll conducted by research institute Civey for German daily Die Welt.

The agency has said it is reevaluating some 18,000 asylum cases from Bremen.

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Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.