An unnamed Chinese tourist visiting Germany ended up touring the country's refugee system for weeks after his wallet was stolen at the airport, according to reports in the German media.
The strange journey began when a backpacker had just arrived in the southwestern city of Stuttgart. Hoping to report the theft, he searched for a police station, the broadcaster WDR reports.
However, due to an unspecified mixup, he ended up speaking to refugee authorities in the city of Heidelberg, over an hour's drive away from Stuttgart. There he filled out an asylum application and was taken to a reception center in Dortmund and later to a refugee home in Duelmen — meaning he was now over four hours away from Stuttgart.
To make matters worse, the Chinese citizen's passport and visa were confiscated by authorities, who instead gave him refugee documentation.
"He set the wheels of a machine in motion that he could not initially escape from," Christoph Schluetermann of the German Red Cross told the DPA news agency.
The man, who spoke neither German nor English, was unable to explain his situation. Instead, he complied with what he was told and ended up spending a week in the refugee camp with little protest. Eventually, the 31-year-old's well-dressed appearance caught the attention of employees of the German Red Cross, who run the Duelmen refugee home.
“He was different from the others — very, very helpless,” Schluetermann told the DPA.
While their initial attempts to converse with him failed due to the language barrier, Schluetermann enlisted the help of a local Chinese restaurant, which pointed him toward a Mandarin translation app. It was only then that the mixup was discovered, with the tourist telling Scluetermann that he did not want to claim asylum and that he instead wanted to "go walking in Italy," according to the Duelmener Zeitung.
Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of refugees and migrants coming to Europe, often traveling routes over the Mediterranean from the Middle East or Africa. Germany alone saw more than 1.1 million migrant arrivals in 2015, often stretching the country's asylum system far beyond what it was designed for.
Authorities told reporters that this appeared to be a unique situation, driven by a series of unusual circumstances. It took a further 12 days for the situation to be rectified, according to the DPA.
Despite the delay, the unnamed tourist apparently had no complaints. "He was very thankful that we took care of him," Scluetermann told the Duelmener Zeitung, who noted that the refugee camp provides food and pocket money for its guests.
According to WDR, after leaving the refugee home, the man resumed his trip in Europe.
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