By Casey Quackenbush
August 9, 2016

A Chinese tourist in Germany who tried to report a stolen wallet ended up signing an asylum application that landed him in a refugee center for 12 days.

The 31-year-old traveler, who only spoke Mandarin, mistakenly went to city hall instead of the police station after he had been robbed in the southwest city of Heidelberg, Reuters reports. Confusion at city hall led to the man accidentally signing the paperwork for asylum claims. The Beijing native was then reportedly sent to a refugee center 220 miles away in the northern town of Duelman and given shelter, food and spending money.

“He spent 12 days trapped in our bureaucratic jungle because we couldn’t communicate,” said the head of the Red Cross refugee center in Duelman, Christoph Schluetermann. “Germany is unfortunately an extremely bureaucratic country. Especially during the refugee crisis I’ve seen how much red tape we have.”

German authorities only discovered their bureaucratic blunder nearly two weeks later after turning to a local Chinese restaurant to translate.

“He kept trying to talk to people to tell his story, but no one could understand him. He kept asking to get his passport back, which is the opposite of what most refugees do,” Schluetermann said.

[Reuters]

 

Write to Casey Quackenbush at casey.quackenbush@time.com.

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