Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thoughts on disappearing - by a German refugee center official

The influx of just over one million refugees into Germany in 2015 has had plenty of organizational challenges. We described one aspect in the January 2015 post Why are so many asylum seekers born on 1 January?

In the meantime, the world found out that one of the November 2015 attackers of Paris had registered under multiple false names as a refugee in Germany, exploiting delays and loopholes in the system.

This did not come as a surprise to many insiders, and we know this from another chat the blogster had with an official in charge of a refugee intake center. In the context of describing the lack of documents which gets refugees the January 1 birthday, the official said: If I wanted to disappear and get myself a new identity, I'd become a refugee.

Really? Even as a German?

Sure, here is what I would do. First, figure out a place you can claim to be from. Tall, blue-eyed blondes don't really come from Syria, so find a credible origin. Don't laugh, but Chechnya might work for someone with seriously Caucasian looks. You can change hair color, of course.

Next, pick a name. Spend some time on this, because it will be your name for the rest of your life if you succeed.

Throw away you smart phone, get adequate clothes, then make your way to a refugee intake facility in the south of Germany or one of the states that are struggling to cope with the numbers of incoming people.

But I don't speak the language of any of the potential countries of origin!

Not a problem, you need broken English. Watch the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal for a primer.

Don't they take fingerprints and check them?

They do, but there is lots of confusion, there are delays checking them against refugee registration databases of other EU countries, and they don't check against the fingerprints of natives, at least not currently. Of course, giving up all of your previous life is hard, next to impossible for most people, so don't take this as encouragement. I'm only explaining that the system and the sheer numbers of people we need to process in a short time could allow someone to go this route.

Wouldn't it be easier if you had a friend who works at a center and who could get the paperwork done?

Probably, but I'm thinking of writing a novel when I'm done with the job, and that's one of the plot lines. Germany seen lots of disappearing acts in the 20th century, for example the story of Hans Ernst Schneider, an SS guy, who ditched his persona in 1945, took on a new identity, married his wife a second time, went through college again, got a second PhD and became a liberal college professor. He was unmasked over 40 years later, and stripped of his pension and titles because someone found old photos from first life.

So, a prerequisite of the disappearing act would be no photos of you on the Internet?

Hm, that's a tough one fore today's young people, but it could still work. I'll make a note of this for my novel.

[Update 4/28/2017] Told you so.
Germans arrest a German soldier who passed himself off as a refugee. A 28 year old German lieutenant was arrested on suspicion of planning a terror attack. The soldier registered as a refugee from Syria in December 2015. He managed to lead a double life until having been caught in Vienna with a gun, the Austrians set off a chain reaction that ultimately led to the "Syrian refugee" being unmasked as a German soldier.

The man does not speak Arabic. Apparently, Germany, short of Arab speakers, was using French interpreters for Syrians (the country had been under French colonial influence for some time).

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