A Chinese tourist got tangled up in the red tape of Germany’s migrant influx after being mistakenly sent to a refugee home for nearly two weeks, media reports said on Monday.
The 31-year-old backpacker, who spoke neither German nor English, wanted to report his wallet missing to police in the southwestern city of Stuttgart but ended up at a different municipal office which handed him an application for asylum.
After unwittingly signing the request, the man, who was not identified, was swiftly placed in a shelter in the western city of Dortmund where his passport was taken from him.
“Machinery kicked into gear from which he couldn’t immediately escape,” Christoph Schluetermann of the German Red Cross told news agency DPA.
Public broadcaster WDR said the man complied with standard procedure for refugees including allowing his fingerprints to be taken, undergoing a medical examination and accepting pocket money.
But staff eventually noticed that the man was unusually well-dressed for an asylum seeker and when the likelihood of a mistake dawned on them, sought help at a local Chinese restaurant.
The owners suggested Schluetermann try using a Mandarin smartphone translation app and it soon became clear that the man didn’t want asylum but to continue his European tour.
“I want to go walking in a foreign country,” one of the translated messages said, WDR reported.
Twelve days into his stay, the man was able to set off for France and Italy.
Germany let in nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, posing an enormous challenge for its overstretched bureaucracy.