Germany’s migration chief is sacked amid an asylum agency fraud scandal – but is the problem solved?
After serving just 18 months as head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Jutta Cordt was fired this week by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, after an internal review discovered that the agency’s branch in the city of Bremen had violated legal and internal regulations for the approval of asylum applications. The decision was quietly announced on Friday, and Rainer Rothfuss, a geopolitical analyst and professor at Tübingen University’s Institute of Geography in Baden-Württemberg, feels the sacking was long overdue.
“It is quite late now that Horst Seehofer tries to find the responsible or the culpable person at the top of the BAMF organization,” Rothfuss said. “He should have broken up the coalition already in 2015 to protest against Angela Merkel for breaking the German laws and letting migrants flow into our country.”
In April, it was revealed that a former BAMF official at the Bremen office was under investigation on suspicion of taking bribes from at least 1,200 asylum seekers, starting in 2013. Other officials at the agency were also probed for possibly having taken part in the scheme. They include an interpreter and three lawyers. After reviewing some 1,371 asylum cases from 2013 to 2017, an internal audit allegedly found the Bremen branch responsible for violating the law in 142 instances, Der Spiegel reported. In 54 percent of the Bremen decisions there had been no admissible request. In about 40 percent of cases, the identity of the asylum seekers was not clarified, the report said.
In the wake of the scandal, BAMF launched additional probes at other locations. Meanwhile, the scandal only deepened the problem with the country’s asylum system and has threatened Angela’s Merkel fragile ruling coalition, which barely formed a government in March, after the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) cruised into the Bundestag in last year’s national elections. With some 50,000 applications backlogged, many in Germany wonder how the refugee crisis will be sorted.
“Just changing the head of the office does not solve the problem. The problem is of a structural nature. It is just the sheer number of asylum applications which overwhelm those structures,” Rothfuss explained to RT. “It is not the right decision now by Horst Seehofer just to exchange Jutta Cordt again and put a new person in charge because the basic problem remains the same.”
More than a million migrants –from predominantly Muslim countries– have entered Germany since the refugee crisis erupted in 2015, fueling strong anti-migrant sentiments and protests against Merkel’s open-door policy. A number of terrorist attacks involving refugees followed, as well the notorious sexual harassment incidents during the 2015 New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne and other cities.
Some 62 percent of Germans polled by Infratest dimap are in favor of turning back undocumented migrants at the border. The poll, released on Friday, also showed that some 86 percent want faster deportations of rejected asylum applicants.
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