A Syrian refugee who claims social benefits in Germany with his four wives and 22 children has sparked debates on social media, after the German press brought his story into spotlight.
The man in question, Ghazia A. (the surname is not disclosed) fled Syria in 2015 and headed to Germany via Turkey, accompanied by his four wives and 23 children.
According to Muslim tradition, a man is allowed to have up to four wives as long as he can support them financially. However, Germany does not officially recognize polygamy.
Ghazia had to choose one of the women as an “official” wife in order for him and the rest of the family to claim social benefits, the German magazine BILD reported. He opted for his “main” wife Twasif and five children, while the other three women have been officially called his “partners” by the authorities.
The man now lives in the community of Montabaur in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. His other three wives had to split the remaining children between them and were moved by the authorities into various neighboring communities, while one of the daughters married and is currently living in Saudi Arabia, BILD noted.
A neighbor of Ghazia told the news outlet that the refugee is often absent from his ‘main’ family while visiting other wives and children, living within a radius of some 50 kilometers.
“According to our religion I have the duty to visit each family equally and not to prioritize any of them,” Ghazia A. told BILD.
The story was first broke by the German media outlet Rhein-Zeitung earlier this year. After being published by the respective news outlets, people on social media voiced discontent over the entire family getting social benefits.
“Of course, the #Syrian (49) lives with his 4 women & 22 children from #Social benefits, from what else?!” one person noted in a tweet.
Reacting to the case, a German financial manager released his calculation of what the German state is paying to the entire family annually. On the website of the Employers’ Association he estimated that the refugees are getting roughly 360,000 Euro per year. There is no official confirmation on the numbers yet.
“I am practically always on my way to be with my family – yet I would gladly like to work,” the Syrian refugee told BILD. Back in his home country the man used to earn enough money with his car sharing and car service business to cover the expanses of his large family, the magazine said.
Some people on social media assumed the case is a reflection of a new reality in Germany. “The new reality in the big canton – nice Friday to you all. My neighbor has 4 women and 23 children,” one message said.
Another one claimed that the “the Syrian with 4 women and 23 children is now being sold to us as a new normality.”
According to Guido Göbel, a local official in the community of Montabaur, covering the financial expenses for the Syrian family is not easy. However, he said that the case is an “exemption,” Rhein-Zeitung reported.
Germany welcomed some one million refugees in 2015, according to official estimates. The influx of immigrants slowed down in 2016, however.