A tourist from China who spoke no German or English was detained for 12 days in a refugee home by officials who thought he was seeking asylum. The 31-year-old had tried to say that he had been robbed at Stuttgart airport and wanted to report his stolen wallet to officials but couldn't make himself understood.
In the confusion, he was sent to a different government building where he unknowingly signed an application for asylum in Germany. He was then moved on to a centre for refugees in Dortmund, over 260 miles away. The tourist's problems increased when his passport was taken from him, so that officials had no idea of who he really was.
"Machinery kicked into gear from which he couldn't immediately escape." Christoph Schluetermann of the German Red Cross, told DPA news agency.
"His passport was confiscated, but he got refugee documents". The wheels of asylum bureaucracy were in motion and he was processed just like any other asylum seeker. The Chinese backpacker then had his fingerprints taken, was given pocket money as well as undergoing a medical examination.
Eventually, staff at the asylum centre in Dülmen became suspicious about the identity of the new resident. Christoph Schlüter of the German Red Cross and head of the refugee hostel, Klaudio Kolakovic noticed that the man was unusually "well-dressed", according to WDR.
As they could not communicate with him, they asked for help at a nearby Chinese restaurant. The owner came up with the idea of using a Mandarin smartphone translation app. The man's true identity was revealed when one of his translated messages read: "I want to go walking in a foreign country."
The tourist was then able to carry on with his travels, heading off to Italy and France, after his delay of 12 days. Over 1 million asylum seekers and refugees arrived in Germany last year, overwhelming government resources.