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Germany’s Refugee Detectives - The Atlantic
To get a sense of these interviews, imagine the following game. You meet someone who claims to be from your hometown, and you have to decide whether he’s telling the truth. You can ask him anything you like: Which high school did you attend? What color is city hall? Do people get around on buses or trains? Is there a McDonald’s? If so, where? The other player may prepare however he wishes, memorizing facts, maps, events. If he convinces you, he gets a million dollars. If he doesn’t convince you, he dies. You have 10 minutes to decide....

bamf investigators have played a version of this game roughly 1 million times in the past three years. Does the applicant come from where he claims to? Would he really fear for his life if he returns? The interview is conducted by a government employee who usually has no direct experience of the country the applicant claims to have fled. I exaggerate the game’s stakes only slightly: The prize is legal status in a society safe and wealthy beyond the imagination of an average Syrian or Afghan. The penalty, in the worst case, is a one-way ticket to a country that may or may not torture him to death.

bamf has developed techniques to play the game—training government employees as human lie detectors, then fanning them out across the country. In December, I visited bamf operations in Nuremberg and Berlin, meeting executives and staff and sitting in on interviews with asylum-seekers. bamf’s leaders are cautious about letting members of the media observe their agency’s techniques, and after several days I understood why: Some methods are secret and, if revealed, potentially useless. (I was the first journalist granted broad access, and then only under the condition that I obscure certain details, in part to protect the privacy of applicants.) But it was also clear that virtually everything the interviewers did or said could infuriate one political extreme or the other, and that it might be easier to work in the shadows....

bamf adopted work-arounds. “There are some identifiers that we just carry with us,” Strübing said. The first is our face. bamf’s facial-recognition software, and the mammoth database from which it draws, is by now “godlike,” one staffer said with reverence. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it make an error.” Think of all the times the government snaps your photo: at the airport or the DMV, when you apply for a visa or get thrown in jail. If a man who shows up at the Austrian border has the same face, but not the same name, as a man who applied for a visa in Cairo five years ago, bamf knows something is amiss. Already the system has detected numerous asylum-seekers who tried to apply more than once, telling different stories of flight and persecution. bamf officials declined to give a full list of the government departments against whose databases they compare photos, but it likely includes spy agencies and law enforcement. If you claim to be Eritrean but are found to have been denied a visa when you applied as a Kenyan 10 years ago, your story is probably beyond salvage.

Other bamf tools yield less-decisive evidence. “What we are looking for is a Hinweis,” Strübing said—a hint, a clue—to alert bamf caseworkers to a dubious claim. “Almost no single thing we discover will tell us for sure whether a person is lying. But we can gather these Hinweise, and they begin to tell us where to look.”

Most refugees carry a phone, and like the rest of us, they seldom go anywhere without it. When I visited bamf’s refugee centers, most of the people waiting to be interviewed were playing on their phone. Hanging on the wall of the think tank’s lab was a black nylon bag stuffed with a whole RadioShack’s worth of cords. “Here we have cables for every phone you have ever seen,” Detzel said, fishing out a few bizarre-looking ones he said were for phones available mostly in China. Every bamf reception center for refugees now has a duplicate set. In cases where the claimant has no passport or other identity papers, bamf can have her phone confiscated and download metadata—but not messages—to check her story. If she claims to have been in Turkey for the month of September, but the phone shows calls made from Yemen, the bamf case officer will ask her to explain.

The highest-grade cunning, though, involves tests that an applicant could fail without knowing he had failed. Occasionally, for instance, bamf officers meet applicants who claim ignorance of languages that would give them away—a supposed Somali, say, whom they suspect of being Kenyan. The average German employed by bamf would have no hope of tricking the applicant into admitting he knows a Kenyan language not spoken in Somalia.

But here, too, technology has delivered. If a case officer suspects that a claimant is lying about his native language, she’ll call a number on the office phone and ask the claimant to speak for two minutes. To demonstrate, Strübing handed me a drawing of a domestic scene—a typical kitchen from about 100 years ago, where a family was preparing for dinner—with instructions to speak into a handset and describe what I saw. (I wondered what a Congolese herder would make of an antique German kitchen.) The computer, which had been told nothing about me, returned this verdict:
migration  surveillance  forensics  telephone  language  shibboleth  identity  bureaucracy  refugees  methodology 
2 days ago by shannon_mattern
The wrong Brexit: what happened to ‘Global Britain’?
@FraserNelson at the @Spectator makes the Tory case for migration and against the government.
ukpolitics  migration 
3 days ago by nwlinks
Nu blir det lättare att få i sig D-vitamin – fler livsmedel berikas
För personer med mörk hud och heltäckande kläder är det särskilt svårt.

Idag rekommenderas kosttillskott med D-vitamin till följande grupper:

Alla barn under två år
Barn över två år med mörk hudfärg, barn som inte vistas utomhus, barn som inte får berikade produkter och barn som inte äter fisk
Gravida som inte äter D-vitaminberikade livsmedel eller som bär heltäckande klädsel rekommenderas tillskott efter samtal med barnmorska
Äldre personer som tillbringar lite tid utomhus
migration  prejudice  food 
5 days ago by infontology
Welcome to the New World
Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic story of Syrian refugees in America.
syria  uspolitics  migration  war 
5 days ago by nwlinks

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