Chinese Tourist Mistakenly Sent to German Refugee Shelter

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We’ve all seen Hollywood movies about summer vacations gone wrong—but few trips sound as unfortunate as one Chinese tourist’s recent visit to Germany. On vacation, The Guardian reports he was unwittingly mistaken as a refugee and transported to a home for displaced people in Dülmen for nearly two weeks.

The man, who’s only known as Mr. L, is reportedly in his early 30s and from Beijing. He claimed his wallet was stolen after he arrived Stuttgart, the capital of Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state. The tourist tried to report the theft to officials, but he was apparently mistaken for an asylum seeker.

The story’s details are a little sketchy, but here’s we know for sure: A spokesperson on refugee issues at the Karlsruhe regional council said that on July 4, the tourist arrived at a refugee reception center in Karlsruhe, Germany. He was part of a group of seven Chinese residents. Two days later, the man arrived at the Patrick Henry Village processing camp outside Heidelberg, Germany. There, he signed an asylum application, and his passport was taken away.

The tourist spoke only Mandarin—but the refugee spokesperson said his papers were filed in front of a Mandarin interpreter, and he should have been aware of the situation. Mr. L was then sent miles away—first to a refugee reception center in Dortmund, then to Dülmen—and provided with food and spending money.

The tourist, who finally arrived in Dülmen on July 8, stood out among the other refugees—not only because he was Chinese, but also because of his nice clothing. The confused man kept asking for his passport back and tried to explain his situation to German Red Cross (DRK) workers. But since none of them spoke Mandarin, they couldn’t help him.

Eventually, German Red Cross official Christoph Schlütermann visited a local Chinese restaurant for assistance, and workers advised him to use a German-Mandarin translation app on his phone. The app later revealed that the Chinese tourist had actually intended to travel on to France and Italy—not to a refugee shelter.

The asylum application was finally canceled after the DRK realized their error. Eventually, officials were able to locate Mr L.'s passport. The tourist eventually left Dülmen on July 20, after spending 12 days at the camp. He reportedly didn’t issue a complaint against authorities, writes.

“It was an extraordinary moment for us all," Schlütermann told The Guardian. "He said Europe was not what he had expected. What would you expect if you had come to Europe as a tourist and spent 12 days sleeping on a camping bed in a refugee center?”

According to The New York Times, some Chinese critics believe the German man surreptitiously tried to emigrate. Others have called him brave, or foolish, or simply a victim of bureaucratic red tape.

[h/t The Guardian]

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