Claiming Paternity is a way to make money. That is the conclusion German Public Broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) has come to after research into German men who claim to be the father of the children of immigrant women. Police and Public Prosecutors suspect a large-scale fraudulent scheme throughout Germany; RBB claims 700 cases in Berlin alone. Women from Vietnam, Africa, and Eastern Europe ask for asylum in Germany while pregnant. They then pay a German ‘sham father,’ lawyers and notaries up to €5000 for an acknowledgement of paternity.

That way, their children automatically gain German citizenship and the mother is legally allowed to stay. The ‘fathers’ often don’t pay child support, living off of social benefits themselves. The pregnant women mostly come to Germany on a tourist visa and receive asylum for as long as their maternity leave lasts.

The RBB describes some cases in which the attitude of the German sham father was clearly not in line with the paternity and the credibility of such a contract. One case it mentions is a 28-year-old German claiming paternity over a Vietnamese child, “even though” he was sentenced multiple times for wearing “symbols hostile to the constitution” and he sympathises with the NPD on his Facebook page.

Martin Steltner of the Prosecutor’s Office in Berlin points out, that the number of similar cases has grown in the last few months:

We have people, that have claimed paternity in more than ten cases. And it concerns a whole series, a multitude of cases, which we find each month.

As Secretary of Internal Affairs Ole Schröder (CDU) says, it is a business model that functions everywhere in the Federal Republic:

The number of unreported cases is significant. The Immigration Authorities give many hints to that effect. These ‘sham fathers’ do it to make money. That means, we’re dealing with a substantial amount of criminal activity here.”

Authorities have had very little opportunity to fight these kinds of crimes. This is because of a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court from 2013, saying that even in cases where foul play is suspected, paternity is not allowed to be disputed. The risk of the child becoming stateless would simply be too big.

Whether or not the ‘father’ is the biological father was ruled to be immaterial.

In response, the Bundestag and Bundesrat have adopted a legislative packet, that allows for the derailment of criminal activities. In the future, if there is suspicion of fraud, Immigration Authorities are allowed to respond. Secretary Schröder:

Of course, this is in line with the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, because we take care to be proactive and make sure these kinds of ‘sham paternities’ aren’t registered in the first place.

This is also to the benefit of many of the mothers, who participate in these kinds of schemes. RBB investigation hints that many of them end up in prostitution: the recognition of paternity makes them dependent on the ‘sham fathers’ and the shadowy figures behind them ultimately calling the shots.