Labour Agency reportedly orders ‘spying’ on welfare fraudsters

Labour Agency reportedly orders 'spying' on welfare fraudsters
Photo: DPA
Welfare recipient advocats are warning of what they call “Stasi methods” at the Federal Labour Agency (BA) to catch people claiming fraudulent benefits, according to German media reports on Thursday.

Daily newspaper Bild said the BA released new instructions on May 20 to all Hartz IV welfare offices that encourage “observation” in cases of “suspicion of an especially serious benefit misuse.”

Welfare workers will also increase the number of household visits where they are to get permission from beneficiaries to search closets and cabinets “when a statement of financial affairs isn’t possible,” the paper said. Details of the apartment searches will be logged in detail by room with particular attention paid to “peculiarities.”

News magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that Labour Agency offices will employ private firms to carry out some of this surveillance, questioning neighbours and children about the suspected fraudster.

According to welfare advocacy organisations Gegen Hartz IV and Erwerbslosenforum Deutschland, an “anonymous report from a bitchy neighbour” would be adequate for an agency report, Der Spiegel said.

Spokesperson for Erwerbslosenforum Deutschland Martin Behrsig said his group is exploring legal action against the new policy, which he said are similar to feared East German Stasi police methods.

“We are legally required to fight the misuse of benefits,” a BA spokesperson told news agency DPA from Nuremberg on Thursday, adding that suc checks have been used for years.

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