Victims and Frauds

How Germany tries to separate refugees from opportunists

BAMF decides which of the millions of migrants who have washed into Germany will be permitted to stay. All asylum applicants are interviewed by the agency. In response to the influx, the government has stepped up its efforts to make that process expeditious and compassionate. But it has also begun to make the process more aggressive in detecting fraud, and thus more pleasing to nationalists who want the flow to stop altogether.

To get a sense of these interviews, imagine the following game. You meet someone who claims to be from your hometown, and you have to decide whether he’s telling the truth. You can ask him anything you like: Which high school did you attend? What color is city hall? Do people get around on buses or trains? Is there a McDonald’s? If so, where? The other player may prepare however he wishes, memorizing facts, maps, events. If he convinces you, he gets a million dollars. If he doesn’t convince you, he dies. You have 10 minutes to decide.

—Graeme Wood
“The Refugee Detectives”

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