Stolen wallet turns Chinese tourist into refugee in Germany

© Kai Pfaffenbach
A Chinese man who had his wallet stolen during a tour of Europe ended up spending a week at a refugee center, after mistakenly filing an asylum application instead of a police complaint.

Pickpockets snatched the wallet from the 31-year-old Chinese man in the university town of Heidelberg in southwest Germany, WDR broadcaster reported.

The man decided to complain about the incident, but his lack of knowledge of German apparently saw him go to the town hall instead of the police office.

The same language failings apparently led to the authorities thinking he was trying to file an asylum plea. The man filled out all the required forms and didn’t object when his passport was taken away from him to be replaced with refugee documents.

The tourist from Beijing was then driven almost 400km to a refugee center near the town of Dulmen.

There, he went through all the usual procedure for asylum seekers, which included having his fingerprints taken, undergoing a medical check and being handed some pocket money.

The tourist then spent over a week at the center before the confusion was finally cleared up.
Christoph Schlütermann from the German Red Cross (DRK) found it strange to see a well-dressed and apparently wealthy person at the camp.

His initial attempts to communicate with the Chinese man were fruitless, but Schlütermann went to a local Chinese restaurant for advice and was told to upload a special translating app to his phone.

“I spoke into the app in German and the phone translated it into Mandarin. But when I received his reply, I got a curious response: ‘I want to go walking in Italy,’" Schlütermann told the Dülmener Zeitung.

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Only then did it become clear that the man had arrived in Europe to see the beautiful sights in Italy and France, not in search of asylum.

But the Chinese tourist could only continue on his journey several days later, with a bureaucratic delay being caused by the fact that his details weren’t correctly documented when he entered Germany.

Germany accepted more refugees than any other state during the ongoing European refugee crisis, with over a million asylum seekers arriving in the country in 2015 alone.