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Tags: EU | Germany | Migrants | First Stop

First Stop for New Arrivals in Germany: Bureaucracy

First Stop for New Arrivals in Germany: Bureaucracy

Wednesday, 16 September 2015 12:25 PM EDT

PASSAU, Germany (AP) — In the corner of a vast industrial complex above this southeastern German city, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others get their first taste of the country's infamous bureaucracy.

"Saff," ''soura," ''basamat" — form a line, photo, fingerprint — are among the dozen phonetically-spelled Arabic words scrawled onto a sheet of paper to help German police communicate with the seemingly endless flood of people who pour out of buses at Passau's central registration center.

It is here that they formally declare their intention to seek asylum after days and sometimes weeks trekking through Europe.

The city has been pushed to the forefront of Germany's effort to cope with the tens of thousands hoping to start a better life far from the hardship and dangers of the countries they've left behind.

And the strain of that effort shows on the faces of migrants and German police alike.

New arrivals enter one of two giant halls once used to build specialized trucks. The lingering smell of motor oil barely masks the odor of people who have traveled hundreds of miles without a change of clothes or a chance to wash.

They are greeted by officers wearing surgical gloves and protective vests. Every migrant receives a paper wristband with a number — his or her passport for the next 12 to 24 hours at Danziger Strasse 49.

Next comes a mugshot, followed by a search. Officers are on the lookout for dangerous objects, but also identity papers that might cast doubt on a person's claim to be from Syria, which almost guarantees he or she will get asylum in Germany.

In the coming hours, migrants get time to wash, eat and rest. Many, especially children, need medical care.

"The doctor is pretty busy," said Stephan Wittenzeller, a spokesman for Germany's federal police, which runs the center.

Ali Hisham Abed, a burly 24-year-old, sits with his friends near the center of the room. When asked why he fled his native Iraq, he produces a U.N. refugee card that shows he first sought refuge in Syria, before the war there forced him to move on again. Now he dreams of Sweden, a country where he says he has friends.

If they are lucky, people at the center get called up quickly for a personal interview. But with at least 400 arriving daily since Sunday, some are forced to wait till the next morning to complete their registration.

Mezloum Shiekho from Hasakah, a Kurdish town in Syria, has been at the center for more than 24 hours and is still waiting for his interview. But he has few complaints.

"They took care of us," he said in English. "Food, beds, medicine... It was very good."

Shiekho compares it with his reception in Hungary, where he says police mistreated him, and his experience with traffickers, whom he paid 4,000 euros to take him from Turkey to Germany before they abandoned him halfway, in Serbia.

At the interview, migrants are accompanied by an interpreter. They are also fingerprinted. An officer manning an ID machine explains that she takes 640 fingerprints — four each from 160 people — on a busy day's shift.

In an adjacent room, a dozen officers painstakingly type up the information that has been collected on each person.

Only once it has been entered into the database can they move on to the second hall — even bigger than the first, with space for some 750 people. The sound is deafening. Children are crying, teenage boys are laughing, and everywhere men and women are trying to sleep; only a baby lying on a field cot seems at peace. In the middle, a police officer keeps a precise tally of how many people are in the building.

One officer says the most common questions he gets are: When are we leaving, where are we going, is there Wi-Fi? Another looks grimly toward a group of migrants smoking inside the building, even though they have been told not to.

Despite the conditions, those waiting to move on remain stoic.

Omar, a 17-year-old from Afghanistan's Baghlan province who declined to give his last name because he feared for his family's safety, said he has been experienced nothing but kindness since arriving in Passau. His eyes light up as he explains how he wants to resume his studies in Germany.

Back in Afghanistan, the Taliban prevented him from going to school, and his father sold everything the family had so that his son could afford the journey to Europe.

"I crossed the borders of seven countries by foot," he said. "Now I want to go to Munich. I have a friend, I'm trying to contact him on Facebook."

Omar may have to wait a while. Many of those registered in Passau are taken to nearby Deggendorf, and then on to other shelters across the country in accordance with the rules of German bureaucracy. There they wait, sometimes for a year or more, to learn whether they will be granted asylum.

Wittenzeller is proud of the registration system at Danziger Strasse 49.

"They invented it two months ago and now it works like a factory production line."

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

In the corner of a vast industrial complex above this southeastern German city, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others get their first taste of the country's infamous bureaucracy."Saff," ''soura," ''basamat" - form a line, photo, fingerprint - are among the dozen...
EU,Germany,Migrants,First Stop
Wednesday, 16 September 2015 12:25 PM
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