Date
22 July 2017
A refugee center in Germany. Staff at a municipal office thought the man was applying for asylum. Photo: Reuters
A refugee center in Germany. Staff at a municipal office thought the man was applying for asylum. Photo: Reuters

Chinese backpacker mistaken for refugee in Germany

A Chinese tourist who lost his wallet at the airport in Germany was mistaken for a refugee and got stuck in a camp for asylum seekers for nearly two weeks, French news agency AFP said, citing local media reports.

The unidentified 31-year-old backpacker wanted to report his wallet missing to police in the southwestern city of Stuttgart, but because he could not speak German or English, he ended up in a municipal office where staff thought he was applying for asylum.

The man unwittingly signed the documents for a refugee, and was sent to a shelter in the western city of Dortmund where his passport was taken from him.

“Machinery kicked into gear from which he couldn’t immediately escape,” Christoph Schluetermann of the German Red Cross told news agency DPA.

Public broadcaster WDR said the man complied with standard procedure for refugees, including allowing his fingerprints to be taken, undergoing a medical examination and accepting pocket money.

But staff eventually noticed that the man was unusually well-dressed for an asylum seeker and was not talking to the other refugees, mostly from the Middle East.

And since they could not speak to him, the staff sought help at a local Chinese restaurant.

The restaurant’s owner suggested that they try using a Mandarin smartphone translation app.

They did, and finally realized that the man didn’t want asylum but to continue his European tour.

“I want to go walking in a foreign country,” one of the translated messages said, WDR reported.

After staying in the refugee shelter for 12 days, the man was finally able to set off for France and Italy.

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CG

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