A Chinese tourist was hoping to continue his walking tour of Europe through France and Italy after finishing one leg in Germany; instead he somehow ended up in a refugee camp for 12 days because of a “simple misunderstanding.”
Upon arriving at the Stuttgart airport on July 4th, the 31-year-old Chinese backpacker surnamed Lu said that he needed help and was directed to the town hall — which he initially thought was the police station. Lu simply wanted to report that his wallet had been stolen, but he didn’t speak a lick of German or English, The Guardian reports.
Completely clueless, Lu filled out an asylum request form and was whisked away to a refugee camp 250 miles away. When he arrived at the camp, he was given a medical checkup and had his thumbprint scanned. The camp supplied him with pocket money and showed him to his trundle bed, which he would now be calling home for the unforeseeable future.
German Red Cross worker, Christoph Schlütermann, was the first to notice that the man looked rather out of place. He was very well-dressed compared to the others and kept asking for his passport back, which most refugees tend not to do.
“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,” Schlütermann explained.
After seeking the advice from a local Chinese restaurant owner and with the help of a translator app, it was eventually discovered that Lu was merely just a tourist, with plans to carry onto Italy.
“I spoke into the app in German and the phone translated it into Mandarin. But when I received his reply, I got the curious response ‘I want to go walking in Italy,'” Mr Schlütermann told the Dülmener Zeitung newspaper.
“For this ‘refugee,’ without the app, we wouldn’t have been able to communicate with him,” Schlutermann told Sixth Tone. “And if he hadn’t said anything, it could have taken half a year for him to have his first interview [to review his asylum claim]. That would have been the worst case.”
After 12 days of being entrapped in bureaucratic red tape, Lu was finally released from the refugee camp. He did not file a formal complaint, but unfortunately did not get the trip he had expected. “It isn’t how I imagined Europe,” he was reported as saying.
By Robin Winship