The BAMF office in Bremen is accused of wrongfully granting asylum to over a thousand refugees between 2013 and 2016 who had their applications dismissed in other federal states.

Prosecutors in Bremen are currently investigating the former head of the Bremen office, Ulrike B., and various employees on suspicion that they took bribes in exchange for granting favourable decisions.

In April, prosecutors searched six private properties and the offices of two law firms as part of their investigation. While it is not yet certain whether BAMF employees in Bremen received money in return for granting asylum, a lawyer’s office in Hildesheim is said to have charged €1,000 to ensure that the Bremen office handed down a positive decision. 

Are there wider implications?

The scandal has spotlighted a strange anomaly in Germany: whether you get asylum depends heavily on where you apply.

Figures published in October last year showed that Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers were far more likely to receive asylum in Bremen than in states like Brandenburg and Bavaria.

In Bremen, the success rate for asylum seekers from Iraq was 96.4 percent in the first six months of 2017 – almost twice as high as in Berlin, where the rate was 50.3 percent. Moreover, 65 percent of asylum applications from Afghans were successful in Bremen, whereas 30.9 percent of Afghan asylum seekers were successful in Brandenburg.

The Interior Ministry has now decided to look more closely at this anomaly and is reviewing the asylum process in ten states where applications have been granted at rates that are either unusually high or unusually low. As part of the investigation some 8,500 randomly chosen cases will be examined for irregularities.