German visa for $12,000 in Iraqi Kurdistan: Der Spiegel

27 Nov 2018 – BERLIN,— Syrian refugees in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region have allegedly travelled to Germany and claimed asylum with the help of smugglers exploiting weaknesses in the visa control system at the German Consulate General in Erbil, according to German media. German current affairs magazine Der Spiegel published an investigation on Monday claiming some members of staff processing visa applications for the German consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan capital had made common cause with people smugglers.

Responding to the allegations, the German Consulate General in Erbil told Rudaw on Tuesday it has a “zero-tolerance policy regarding corruption and other criminal activities at our diplomatic missions” and that an investigation is ongoing.

Refugees who spoke to Der Spiegel said they had paid smugglers around $12,000 for help securing a visa, which allowed them to fly to Germany and claim asylum on arrival.

A confidential list of cases – seen by Der Spiegel – suggests the practice may have been widespread. The magazine said there could be at least two dozen incidents of possible manipulation which may have led to visas being illegally issued.

Short-staffing at the consulate allowed fraudulent applications to pass unnoticed, the magazine added.

“Firstly, there must be a declaration from a so-called ‘pledgee’ in Germany. He has to agree to cover all costs for the refugee in Germany in the coming years,” the magazine states, describing the process.

This pledgee can be easily falsified, it said.

“In addition, the application documents of the Syrian appear to falsify the so-called pre-approval, with which the competent foreigners’ authority in Germany already submits its consent to a visa before examining the petition in Erbil. Without this approval from Germany there is no visa,” said Der Spiegel, citing the example of one Syrian refugee – Rashed M.

The alleged perpetrators inside the consulate appear to have worked in tandem with a professional smuggling network and helpers in Germany itself, the magazine said.

The German Consulate General in Erbil said it became aware of the alleged abuses of its visa control system in December last year and took action to prevent its misuse.

“In an immediate response to initial indications in December 2017, the Consulate General in Erbil adopted new procedures in order to exclude any misuse of the visa procedures,” the German Consulate in Erbil told Rudaw in a statement.

“Additionally, the German Federal Police was informed immediately. The German Foreign Office works closely with the responsible authorities in order to investigate the matter comprehensively. There is a zero-tolerance policy regarding corruption and other criminal activities at our diplomatic missions,” it said.

“The public prosecutor in Berlin is currently investigating the case. The German Foreign Office does not comment on the status of ongoing investigations.”

Kurdistan considered as the most corrupted part of Iraq. According to Kurdish lawmakers and leaked documents billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil revenues.

Top Kurdish officials including the two ruling families of the Barzanis and Talabanis have been routinely accused by critics and observers of amassing huge wealth from oil business for their families instead of serving the population.

KDP party leader, Massoud Barzani, who served as president of Kurdistan region from 2005-2017 and still control Erbil province, has been routinely accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister.