Welfare fraud: Bulgarian migrants exploited in Germany

Written by on May 25, 2017 in Europe - Comments Off on Welfare fraud: Bulgarian migrants exploited in Germany

Bulgarian migrants in Germany are still being exploited by organisations and individuals who apply for social benefits in their name. Victims of schemes of this kind gave testimony in front of the review board of the legislative assembly of Bremen yesterday.

While prosecutors are looking into two associations registered in the port city of Bremerhaven, the review board tried to shed some light on the way those schemes work. It intends to answer the question why there were more than 1000 migrants from South-Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, who wrongfully received social welfare in the past few years. It looks like the associations in question gave counterfeit work contracts to hundreds of migrants. Those contracts looked like the migrants were eligible for welfare. Those behind that criminal scheme cashed in, while most migrants involved had no clue.

Three Bulgarian migrants were heard on Wednesday. One of them, a 32-year old, illiterate fisherman, who is part of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, said he had had badly paid day jobs since 2007. For 6,50 Euro per hour, he had cleaned the interiors of ships a lot, but he had never had a stable income. Two years ago, the witness contacted Selim Öztürk, the head of an association called ABI, wo dealt with the German authorities “for all Bulgarians in Bremerhaven”. That man had charged 20 Euro in cash every time he had gone to the authorities for anyone.

According to the Bulgarian witness, Öztürk had his clients sign forms, which were already filled in and which none of them were able to read in the first place. Another Bulgarian, who had come to Germany in 2012, paid Öztürk as well, while accepting jobs which paid between 5 and 7 Euro per hour. He said he did not know the minimum wage in Germany was 8.84 Euro per hour. From his very modest income, he paid ABI for illegal services, while the organisation might have kept social welfare payments, which were supposed to be paid to the witness.

As it turned out, the Bulgarian witnesses heard in Bremen actually believed Öztürk worked for the authorities, while the association run by him managed to keep its exploitation scheme alive, and under the radar of the authorities, for years. For some reason, the latter did not notice that many migrants were not even registered in Germany and had no health insurance.

On a regular basis, German authorities uncover schemes constructed by the welfare fraud mafia. Recently, the authorities in the town of Offenbach uncovered an exploitation scheme of this kind, which was run by German, Bulgarian and Turkish company owners. The victims were mostly Bulgarians, who, on top of everything else, were also charged extremely high rents for dirty, overcrowded apartments. Their children were sleeping on flea-infested mattresses, until the police stepped in.

The review board in Bremen is scheduled to hear more witnesses.

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Imanuel Marcus, the founder of foreignersandfriends.com, is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe.