Last week it was revealed that a 25-year-old Sudanese immigrant in Braunschweig had defrauded the German welfare system by using seven different identities to claim more than 21,700 euros ($23,050) in welfare payments in different German cities.
Taking into account the five months the man had spent on remand, Hannover District Court sentenced the man to 19 months imprisonment and 200 hours community service.
In Lower Saxony alone, there are 487 known cases in which immigrants defrauded the welfare system, at a cost to the state of 945,100 euros ($1,003,900).
No figures exist for Germany’s most populous state, Nordrhein-Westfalen, or Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.
Officials in Nordrhein-Westfalen told that this is because cases of social welfare fraud committed by asylum seekers are not counted separately.
“Offenses and police suspects are recorded in police criminal statistics according to uniform principles across countries. Specific data on cases of social welfare fraud committed by asylum seekers who carry out multiple registrations are not explicitly recorded in the police criminal statistics. In justice statistics, crimes committed by asylum seekers are not recorded separately,” a spokesperson said.
Officials in Thuringia told they were unaware of a single case of asylum welfare fraud, while officials in Sachsen-Anhalt failed to respond to the query.
The interior ministry in Potsdam, capital of the German state of Brandenburg, disclosed that in 2015 there were five cases of asylum fraud, at a cost to the state of 3,116 euros ($3,309). In 2016 there were 13 cases, at a cost of 22,026 euros ($23,400).
Most asylum fraud was carried out before summer 2016, when German states began collecting and sharing biometric data such as fingerprints, making it impossible for asylum seekers to create multiple identities.
On Monday, Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) revealed plans to allow Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) to search the phones of asylum seekers in order to make sure of their true identity.
Around two-thirds of asylum seekers arrive in Germany without identification papers, and BAMF wants to ascertain their identity more quickly in order to facilitate faster deportation, officials told the Suddeutsche Zeitung, WDR and NDR news outlets.
Until now, the BMAF could only search asylum seekers’ mobile phone with their consent, or following a court order.