Chinese backpacker mistaken for refugee, spends 2 weeks in shelter
(CNN) — A Chinese tourist spent almost two weeks at a refugee shelter in Germany after authorities mistakenly assumed he was applying for asylum, an official with the German Red Cross told CNN.
Identified only as Junliang, the 31-year-old — who only spoke Mandarin — tried to report stolen money when he arrived at Stuttgart airport, but instead of signing a missing item form he mistakenly filled out an asylum request application, according to Christoph Schlütermann.
From there, Junliang’s passport was taken from him and he was given a train ticket to the city of Dortmund, about 417 km (approximately 259 miles) away, where he was officially registered as a refugee, said Schlütermann. Junliang then received a medical examination and was sent by bus with 50 other refugees from North Africa, Syria and the Middle East to a refugee shelter in Duelmen.
Here, he slept alone in a container — containing 4-6 beds — in a shelter that could hold up to 200 refugees, and took part in the daily routine.
Schlütermann, who is also the director of the Duelmen refugee shelter, told CNN as soon as he saw the Chinese backpacker, he doubted that he was a refugee. He explained that not only is it rare to have Chinese refugees, but Junliang was also dressed differently.
Schlütermann finally learned the truth after downloading a language app and enlisting the assistance of employees at a local Chinese restaurant to translate Junliang’s requests. The Red Cross director said the backpacker explained he wanted his passport back and that he hoped to visit France and Italy. In an attempt to confirm Junliang’s story, Schlütermann then searched for documents and attempted to contact Chinese authorities.
He got no response, but Junliang was finally released 12 days later on July 20 after he declared in front of police that he was not, in fact, an asylum seeker.
When he left, Junliang thanked Schlütermann for all his efforts, but admitted he was very happy to be able to leave.
More than a million refugees arrived in Germany last year, making it the most open country in Europe to asylum seekers.