Bremen (dpa) – Before 2018, a large-scale criminal trial over the grievances at the Bremen refugee office was launched, but it should end soon.
Since Thursday, the former head (60) of the department of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) in Bremen and a lawyer specializing in asylum law (42) from Hildesheim have to report to the regional court.
What seemed like a scandal with hundreds of illegal asylum applications in Bremen at the time, only a handful of allegations remained in the regional court. The exempt head of office dealt with civil service law, manipulation of documents, piercing official secrets and abuse – 14 acts in all. The lawyer is charged with eight acts, including the granting of benefits.
The defense insisted on a trivial dismissal. According to lawyer Henning Sonnenberg, there is a discrepancy between the effort and the expected result. The suspects were more eligible for a local court, said Chairman Maike Wilkens: “The scope of the proceedings belongs to a regional court, not the expectation of punishment.” The criminal chamber can imagine an attitude against the conditions, said court spokesman Jan Stegemann.
The defendants admitted the described trials in each case, but the defense presented them as harmless or not punishable. The suspect who abused the officer turned out to be two hotel bills in Hildesheim of 65 euros each, which the lawyer had paid. The defendant said she gave the money to the lawyer, who then paid the bill. Checking out from the small hotel with no constant reception was so easier.
What binds the defendants together was mentioned only in passing. Sonnenberg told the German news agency that his client was a Yezidis and had advised many refugees from this religious minority. In particular, the Yazidis in Iraq suffered from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia as of 2014, thousands of men were murdered and thousands of women and girls were kidnapped. In the asylum system, Yazidis who had fled to Germany were considered urgent cases. The Bremen boss Bamf also made special efforts to protect her.
The officer is said to have forwarded official documents to the lawyer. For example, it concerned the standard questions in the asylum procedure or Bamf reports on the situation in countries such as Bulgaria. Such reports could not be classified by the authorities, argued lawyer Johannes Eisenberg. All those involved in asylum procedures need them for their work. However, the officer also forwarded a list of 3,600 refugee names that had not yet been identified.
In several cases, Hildesheim’s lawyer would have ensured that foreigners could stay in Germany without permission. Sonnenberg rejected this: those involved had a residence permit; Instead, the lawyer made sure that in confused asylum cases “legal conditions” apply again.
The public prosecutor’s office wants to pronounce on a possible termination of the proceedings next Tuesday (April 20). The authority had investigated the events at the Bamf branch in Bremen with a special committee of more than 30 people. Possible legal consequences await the ex-head after the trial.
Whether and to what extent the asylum law in Bremen was actually stretched was not an issue before the regional court. A high recognition rate was noticeable over the years. In 2020, 50.5 percent of all refugees found protection in Bremen, the Bamf in Nuremberg announced on request. The national average was 43.1 percent.
The events in Bremen before 2018 were artificially scandalized by politics and the media, said Nazanin Ghafouri of the Bremen Refugee Council. “From the outset, it was clearly about a larger, political goal: to undermine the right to asylum itself.”