A Chinese tourist intending to take a walking holiday in Italy ended up unwittingly spending two weeks as a refugee in Germany after his wallet was stolen.
Speaking neither English or German, the 31-year-old known only as Mr L accidentally claimed asylum when he thought he was reporting the crime.
The “well-dressed” man then spent two weeks trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare until officials realised their mistake.
Christoph Schluetermann, head of a Red Cross refugee centre in the northern town of Duelmen, said: “He spent 12 days trapped in our bureaucratic jungle because we couldn’t communicate.”
Along with genuine asylum seekers he was fingerprinted and given a medical exam but his neat attire eventually drew attention.
Schluetermann went to a local Chinese restaurant to ask for help where he was told to use a translation app to aid communication.
He said: “He acted so differently to other refugees. 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.
“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’,”
Despite his ordeal, the tourist will not lodge a formal complaint although he was reported as saying: “It isn’t how I imagined Europe.”
Schluetermann said in response “What would you expect if you had come to Europe as a tourist and spent 12 days sleeping on a camping bed in a refugee centre?”
More than one million refugees have arrived in Germany in the last year, fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. There has been only a tiny number of Chinese asylum seekers over the years, Schluetermann said.