A new case in the growing scandal over dubious residency approvals for migrants came to light on Tuesday, when Berlin broadcaster RBB reported that the Berlin branch of the Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees (BAMF) had enabled immigration fraud over a period of several years.
According to RBB, a criminal syndicate created fake identity documents for over 200 Nigerian immigrants, and repeatedly used the same trick to help them gain residency status in the Bundesrepublik.
In a case that is now being investigated by Berlin prosecutors, the criminal gang would exploit EU residency laws by sending the African migrants to the BAMF office with a Portuguese woman who would claim to be their wife.
EU law allows for the immediate family of EU citizens to be granted residency and work status if that person can prove that they are working in that country.
The Portuguese women would be flown into Berlin for the BAMF appointment for which they were provided with fake papers that appeared to prove that they worked in Germany and that they were married to the man seeking residency. In most cases the application was approved.
Prosecutors believe that the marriage documents were faked in Nigeria, while the work contract was created by a former Berlin brothel owner, prosecutors allege.
The trick was used over 200 times between 2015 and 2017, sometimes more than once in the same week. In some cases the same woman appeared for several appointments, turning up each time with different identity papers.
BAMF employees who spoke with RBB said that they warned their seniors on several occasions that the applications were dubious, but the warnings were repeatedly ignored. The Berlin Senate has refuted the claim, saying that they took action as soon as it became apparent that fraud was being committed.
The RBB report comes as BAMF attempts to fight off accusations of serious negligence after a scandal at its office in Bremen.
The Bremen office is suspected of taking bribes to ensure that over 1,200 asylum requests were approved, despite the applicants not meeting the requirements to receive asylum.
The BAMF central authority reportedly tried to hide the extent of the fraud from the general public, fearing damage to its reputation.