The number of people coming from Ukraine as war refugees continues to increase. In Baden-Württemberg it has recently been observed that some of them have, in addition to Ukrainian citizenship, another citizenship of an EU country, for example Hungary or Romania.
However, if they identify exclusively as Ukrainian citizens, they are entitled to receive citizen benefits. These cases are currently increasing, especially in Baden-Württemberg. This raises the suspicion that some people are trying to obtain money from citizens in Germany through fraud.
The scam was noticed because some of these supposed war refugees did not even speak Ukrainian. This is reported by several district offices in the region.
The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Justice and Migration also confirmed this to FOCUS online: “People who could only communicate in Hungarian and could only present recently issued Ukrainian passports presented themselves to the immigration authorities,” a spokeswoman said.
Monetary fraud on citizens: around 1,380 cases submitted for review in Baden-Württemberg
Then the ministry “responded immediately.” Since then, immigration authorities have been supported by several information letters and the establishment of a review process, the ministry spokesperson explained.
Thus, from May 25, 2023, the country's immigration authorities have the opportunity to notify suspected cases centrally to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) via the Karlsruhe Regional Council.
According to the BAMF spokesperson, these cases will be forwarded to the Hungarian and Ukrainian authorities for review. Concretely, this means: “So far in Baden-Württemberg around 1,380 cases have been submitted for review. We received about 500 responses from the Ukrainian and Hungarian sides. Of these, Hungarian citizenship was confirmed in 58 cases.”
“Fake” Ukrainians: scams can now be very expensive
Now things could get expensive for those 58 confirmed cases of “fake” Ukrainians. Unauthorized receipt of social benefits by deception is punishable. This means that, according to article 263 of the Penal Code, the law provides for a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine for the basic crime of social fraud. First-time offenders with no prior crimes or probation violations are often fined.
In more serious cases, such as fraud on a commercial scale, membership in a criminal organization, causing significant economic damage or involving public officials, the penalty can increase to up to ten years in prison.
“The objective is to detect false information before issuing the residence permit”
However, Siegfried Lorek (CDU), State Secretary for Migration in Baden-Württemberg, underlines that the aim is to uncover false information through the procedure described above, if possible before the residence permit is issued. “That is why we have already written several times to our immigration authorities in Baden-Württemberg and raised awareness about this.”
In the case of “wrong” Ukrainians, this means that if Hungarian or Romanian citizenship is proven, they will not be granted any temporary protection. “If the residence permit has already been issued, it will be withdrawn,” Lorek told FOCUS online.
A residence permit is a prerequisite to receive the citizen benefit
One thing is clear: having a valid residence permit is one of the requirements to receive the citizen benefit. And the immigration authorities decide on the right of residence. Employment offices are only activated and can grant citizenship benefits when the immigration office issues a so-called fictitious certificate, i.e. the existence of a temporary right of residence, a spokeswoman for the Biberach district office tells FOCUS online. .
“With the withdrawal of the right of residence, the requirements for the payment of benefits no longer apply and citizen benefits are claimed and criminal charges are brought.” In Biberach there are currently between 8 and 10 suspected cases to which this could apply. Also in this case the people in question “stand out for their good knowledge of the Hungarian language and at the same time for their lack of knowledge of the Ukrainian language,” said the spokesperson.
In the cases However, these are not people who mistakenly have dual citizenship. “They were living in Ukraine when the war broke out,” explains the spokesperson. Dual citizenship is not uncommon in these border areas.
“With the exception of one case in which a withdrawal of the right of residence has already begun, all other cases remain suspicious,” he underlines. The issue of misuse has not yet been clarified.
“All employees were sensitized on this issue internally”
To a question from FOCUS online, a spokesperson for the Sigmaringen district responded: “In specific cases, when submitting the application, it was noted that interested persons could not communicate with the Ukrainian or Russian interpreter.” single-digit number of people who proved to have Hungarian citizenship.
To prevent this type of monetary fraud on citizens and, if possible, avoid it in the future, the employment office is in constant communication with the Department of Migration and Integration and other employment offices, the spokesperson stated. “All employees were made aware of this issue internally.”
Immigration authorities should consider whether there is concrete evidence of increased citizenship despite holding a valid Ukrainian passport, the spokesperson said. Then we must consider whether there is sufficient evidence to refuse to issue a residence permit and thus block access to citizen benefits. “In determining the facts of the case, immigration authorities always rely on the cooperation of refugees.”