A pro mass migration volunteer at a refugee centre has admitted fabricating the death of a Syrian migrant, who supposedly died of the cold waiting for handouts in Berlin.
The story was widely reported Germany, and used to lobby for extra money and resources for migrants.
A charity and campaign group which was quick to criticise the government for the death has now admitted the revelation of the lie could be “catastrophic” for their pro-refugee cause.
A pro-migrant activist first reported the story on Facebook, including a transcript with the lying man, called ‘Dirk’. She described the refuges deteriorating condition in startling detail, as well as alleging that four migrant women had had miscarried in the queue, and that a migrant child had been abducted.
“A 24-year-old Syrian who has been queuing for days on LaGeSo in freezing temperatures in the slush, by fever, chills, then cardiac arrest in the ambulance, then in the emergency room, has passed away”, wrote Reyna Bruns yesterday.
Adding: “This sacrifice of a human life ought to have been prevented. We all saw it coming. And not just for the past two days. For the past half a year.”
LaGeSo is the Berlin Health and Social Affairs Office, where all Berlin refugees must register. It had become a flash point in Germany’s refugee crisis, struggling to cope with the volume of arrivals and facing heavy criticism for delays.
Its leader was force to resign last year and a group of 40 lawyers even filed a criminal complaint against the city’s health senator in December because of the backlog, alleging it was “causing bodily harm” and calling for more resources.
“Who takes responsibility here? Who represents the debt that the failing government or the political will?” exclaimed Mr. Bruns.
In the sprawling post she described her “privilege”, and used the alleged deaths to call for more handouts, money and resources. “The boy, who is now dead, has made it this far, and we, our country, our society, have failed to protect him”.
The story instantly went viral, and had entered the mainstream press by Wednesday afternoon, spreading beyond Germany to reports in the English language media. Tributes collected outside the office, with pro migration activists leaving candles and flowers outside the doors and even wearing black mourning armbands.
— Ben Knight (@BenWernerKnight) January 27, 2016
Christiane Beckmann, a spokesman for Moabit Hilft, a local pro migration charity, used the opportunity to speak to the reporters who flocked to the LaGeSo Office:
“We’ve been reporting for weeks and months that people have to stand in line here in inhumane conditions”, she said. “There are laws in this country to look after people who seek asylum, and the responsibility is very clearly with the government”.
— dwnews (@dwnews) January 27, 2016
Yet doubts about the veracity of the claims started to surface when journalists were unable to find records of the dead migrant in Berlin’s hospitals and morgues.
As the hours passed without any information about the dead Syrian, rumours began that the whole thing might have been made up. It didn’t help that ‘Dirk’, the only eyewitness had suddenly cut off contact with the other migrant helpers and refused to answer questions from the press who called, emailed and even parked camera crews outside his apartment.
“We are striving, just like all the other authorities in the city, the police, the fire services, to create clarity,” a different Moabit Hilft spokeswoman told journalists at a press conference later on Wednesday evening.
“It would be a catastrophe for us [if the helper had made up the story],” the spokeswoman said. “We simply wouldn’t be able to trust many of our helpers any more… We have to believe that our people have enough intelligence not to make up a story like this.”
The truth of came out when police officers visited the man at his apartment and announced that the activists had “admitted that he had made it all up”.
— Moabit hilft (@Moabithilft) January 27, 2016
The Berlin establishment has reacted with anger to the revelations. Senator with responsibility for the interior Frank Henkel said there should be consequences for the man who started the false allegation. He told Zeit:
“This is one of the most rotten and insidious actions that I have ever seen… Berlin’s authorities had to search for hours and with great efforts for a fictional LaGeSo death”.