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Over the weekend the news broke that the German immigration office (BAMF) had blundered in a rather spectacular way. While the German government, in the person of its Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is blaming the German Army (Bundeswehr) for having “an ‘attitude problem’, ‘a misunderstood esprit de corps’ and ‘apparently weak leadership at different levels’.”

This outburst and later, partial retraction, by the Minister after criticism by the soldiers’ union, comes after an embarrassing incident with a soldier. The focus is now on the soldier’s alleged planning of a “right wing motivated” terrorist attack, but the real scandal is the showcase of yet another failure of BAMF to protect German citizens from fraudulent asylum seekers.

Stationed with the Franco-German Brigade in the French-German border area, a 28-year-old lieutenant, identified only as Franco A. under Germany’s privacy laws, persuaded BAMF that he was a French-speaking refugee from war-torn Syria.

He applied for asylum in January 2016 in Zirndorf, Bavaria, as a non-Arabic Syrian. He portrayed himself as ‘David Benjamin’, a fruit seller originating from a French colonial-era community in Damascus, according to DPA, to sidestep the assumption that Syrian refugees typically speak Arabic.”

During the processing of his application, he was assigned accommodation in Baustarring, a town in the South of Germany. There he was ‘often away’, to the extent that his asylum application hearing was “was initially sent back from Baustarring, with the annotation ‘Mr. Benjamin’ was not known.”

When BAMF did get around to send its special security unit for conspicuous cases to interview Franco A. last November, his story was not exposed. Instead, after the interview, he was granted partial protection status as a war refugee, on the strength of his claim that he “had fled Syria after being wounded by grenade shrapnel during an attack by the ‘Islamic State’ militia.” Apparently, Franco never underwent a medical check to confirm the injury.

On Friday, Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate denied that there were ‘structural problems’ in BAMF procedures but conceded “this decision was wrong.”