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Keeping track of asylum-seekers

May 24, 2018

Immigration offices in Germany do not have hardware they need to identify migrants, according to media reports. A lack of fingerprint scanners means authorities cannot keep track of asylum-seekers.

A person having an index finger scanned
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gentsch

Officials at immigration and welfare offices attempting to identify asylum-seekers face serious difficulty ensuring people are not taking advantage of German social services, according to reports in Die Welt and the Nürnberger Nachrichten newspapers on Thursday.

A lack of fingerprint scanners at 200 of Germany's 494 immigration offices and all social service offices mean officials cannot use fingerprints to confirm people are not using multiple identities to apply for social benefits, the papers said, citing information from the Interior Ministry.

The immigration offices would receive the devices by September while job centers and other social service offices would be equipped with fingerprint scanners by the end of 2018, the Interior Ministry said.

Read more: German refugee agency scandal – Keep calm and investigate

Establishing who's who

Some 40 percent of asylum-seekers in Germany did not have identity documents in 2016, in 2017 the number dropped to 35 percent, according to the newspaper reports. During the process of determining whether a person is granted asylum in Germany, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is required to establish the applicant's identity.

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Since 2016, vetting of asylum-seekers has included comparing fingerprint scans with prints in a central database of asylum recipients and applicants. BAMF did not take fingerprints of the hundreds of thousands of people who arrived at the height of the migrant flows to Germany in 2015. In June 2017, the agency's head, Jutta Cordt, said some 5,000 people received asylum without having established their identity.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and premiers from Germany's 16 states agreed in February 2017 to improve cooperation at the federal, state and local levels in an effort to limit abuse of social services that could result from multiple aid applications.

Bar chart showing a decrease in registered asylum-seekers in Germany since 2015

BAMF breakdowns

BAMF's work identifying asylum-seekers has come under heavy criticism. Anis Amri, who killed 12 people by driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in 2016, was known to authorities under 14 different identities.

Read more: Germany launches new investigation into Berlin Christmas market attack failures

In 2017, Franco A., a Bundeswehr officer, received protected status after applying for asylum. Prosecutors believed he planned to use his status to commit an act of terror that would be blamed on asylum-seekers. He was later released due to lack of evidence of an immediate threat to the state.

The migrant authority made headlines again after accusations this month that its office in Bremen approved hundreds of applications without sufficiently evaluating them.

German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller said in January 2017 that benefit fraud due to asylum-seekers' multiple registrations cost the country millions of euros.

sms/kms (dpa, KNA)

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