'Dead Syrian' Facebook post spotlights German refugee fears

2016-01-28 17:50
Refugees (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, AFP)

Refugees (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Berlin - A Facebook post about the death of a Syrian refugee in Germany sparked a storm of reaction this week, only for the author to admit making it up, highlighting a rash of online rumours fuelled by a record asylum seeker influx.

At first glance, it was all too credible: a 24-year-old Syrian had been queuing for days in the cold at Berlin's notoriously chaotic refugee registration centre Lageso even though he was ill.

Homeless and penniless, he finally went into cardiac arrest on the way to hospital and died, according to the account posted on Wednesday by kind-hearted volunteer Dirk Voltz, who had taken the man in.

But Voltz in fact fabricated the tale, duping not just national media and authorities but also Moabit Hilft, the neighbourhood aid group that he volunteers with.

"I acted out of a relationship based on trust," said a dismayed Diana Henniges, from the aid group, who had confirmed the purported death to national media before Voltz finally admitted he had invented it.

‘We are crying’

In a gripping "live" text-message style exchange with a friend published online, Voltz said he rang for an ambulance as the man was suffering from a "39.4 degree fever, chills and could no longer speak".

He told his friend to find an Arabic speaker quickly to communicate with the refugee, but after his friend gave him a number, he said it was too late and the Syrian had died.

Moabit Hilft went to town with the "exchange", even publishing an obituary on Twitter: "You survived so much. You did not survive Lageso. You caught a fever, chills and cardiac arrest. You died last night. We are crying."

But as national media began reporting on the "tragedy", emergency services said there was no trace of such a case.

Finally, Voltz confessed to police he had, in a drunken stupor, lied.

"It is indicative of this overly excited, sometimes hysterical time, but also of the state of Lageso, that so many people have immediately believed such a death," Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel said in an editorial.

'Official cover-up'

After all, Moabit Hilft were the good guys - one of the key volunteer groups credited with averting disaster so far at Lageso by handing out clothes, warm drinks and food to asylum seekers huddling in the cold.

Berlin authorities on the other hand have come under fire repeatedly for failing to improve conditions at Lageso, where thousands of newcomers wait, often for days, in an unsheltered courtyard to get an appointment with an overwhelmed bureaucrat.

While this purported death was seized on as seeming to lay bare how Germany was failing the 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived last year, other rumours, often surrounding "crimes" committed by foreigners, are also doing the rounds on the Internet.

Many are promoted by angry far-right groups, feeding on fears that have arisen over the spate of sexual assaults during New Year's festivities in Cologne, which were blamed on migrants.

"Most rumours are sexual offences. You can plot the map of Germany with the locations where women and girls were allegedly raped by asylum seekers," said daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

As an example of the kind of wild rumours circulating in the current febrile atmosphere, it cited the case of a female cleaner at a refugee shelter who was supposedly gang-raped and then killed, her body found in the toilet.

Although many of these claims are shrugged off by the wider public, other allegations have taken a graver turn, even transforming into diplomatic affairs.

Take the recent mysterious case of a 13-year-old Russian-German, whose claims that she had been kidnapped and raped by immigrants were rejected by German police following an investigation.

The authorities' conclusions did not appear to convince hundreds of German-Russians, who staged protests in several German cities last weekend.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also weighed in on Tuesday, seeking to lend credence to the girl's account and charging that her disappearance had been "hidden" by German authorities.

But Berlin angrily hit back at the charge, with foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer saying: "The truth will always come out in the end."

Read more on:    germany  |  syria  |  social media  |  migrants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.