Chinese Tourist Loses Wallet, Becomes Unwitting Refugee

He said Europe was not what he'd expected
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2016 7:03 AM CDT
Chinese Tourist Loses Wallet, Becomes Unwitting Refugee
A view of the old city of Heidelberg, southwest Germany, with the Old Bridge crossing the river Neckar, foreground, and the Heidelberg Castle, background left, photographed on Monday, June 25, 2007.   (AP Photo/Daniel Roland)

A well-dressed tourist visiting Germany from China was robbed in Heidelberg, but he filled out the wrong set of paperwork in an attempt to report the crime. Known only as Mr. L and fluent only in Mandarin, he went to the town hall instead of the police station, signed an asylum application instead of a missing item report, handed over his passport, had his fingerprints taken, and was bused 220 miles away to a refugee shelter in Duelmen. All the while he did his best at charades to communicate that he just wanted his passport so he could visit Italy and France, reports the Local. But the 31-year-old had become entangled in the German asylum system, which has processed 1 million refugees in the last year alone, reports the Guardian. Most have fled Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; very few have sought asylum from China.

"He spent 12 days trapped in our bureaucratic jungle because we couldn't communicate," the head of a Red Cross refugee center tells Reuters. The well-dressed man from Beijing stood out as it was, and he also clearly had a story to tell. But it wasn't until someone went to a local Chinese restaurant for help that it was suggested Red Cross workers use a smartphone app to translate, which did the trick. After more paperwork, which was further delayed by paperwork mishandled when Mr. L first entered the country, the tourist was sent on his way south. The entire ordeal took 12 days, and yet he walked away politely and without anger. "He said Europe was not what he had expected," the Red Cross official says. (Read about another tourist mishap.)

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