A Chinese tourist who tried to report a stolen wallet during a visit to Germany unwittingly signed an asylum application that got him stranded as a refugee for two weeks in the country's burgeoning asylum bureaucracy.
The well-dressed 31-year-old, known as Mr L, was misidentified as a refugee and was unable to communicate with authorities, a Red Cross official said.
"He was helpless, unable to speak the language, only Mandarin," Christoph Schluetermann, who works at a refugee center in the northern town of Duelmen, told Reuters on Tuesday.
The man was initially taken to a reception center in the southwestern city of Heidelberg before being sent hundreds of kilometers to Dortmund and eventually ending up at the shelter in Duelmen, Schluetermann said.
More than one million refugees have arrived in Germany in the last year, most of them fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Mr L was fingerprinted and given food and spending money like the other refugees, but stood out because of his clothing and unusual demeanor.
"On the evening he arrived we immediately noticed that something was strange about his behavior. He was asking for an urgent interview which sounded very dramatic. He was very agitated and seemed confused and disorientated," Schluetermann said, adding that Red Cross staff only learned the truth with the help of translation apps.
"He clearly communicated that he wanted his passport back, that he had a tourist visa and that his plan was to leave the country and go walking in France and Italy. He asked us to help him get his passport back from Heidelberg," Schluetermann said, adding that Mr L was at the shelter for 12 days in total.
The confused tourist, who comes from Beijing, has now been released to resume his tour of Europe.
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