For the last time this year, presenter and satirist Jan Böhmermann kicked up dust with his ZDF magazine Royal before the Christmas break – thick, thick official dust. Böhmermann introduced the theme of the show at Christmas time: It is about a magical place, where nobody knows exactly what happens behind the closed doors and where many little elves do their work. Unfortunately, this was not the home of Santa Claus at the North Pole, but a German authority that scares many people: the immigration authorities.
That should have changed a long time ago. For ten years, the image has been polished with a campaign to turn Germany's immigration authorities into welcoming authorities. Sounds good, but does that also work with the welcome culture in Germany? "It'll work out, we and Germany have always welcomed foreigners," Böhmermann said smugly. Whereupon pictures were shown of people throwing Molotov cocktails at refugee shelters or chanting racist slogans in the mob.
In Germany, 540 immigration authorities deal with the question of who is allowed to stay and work in the country and who is not. The fact that not everything is going smoothly there, that the officials are overburdened and that the applications are piling up is anything but new. Why is that? The Böhmermanns team investigated the question of how the alleged welcoming culture in the offices really is and looked behind the little doors. Or rather: behind the doors of a fictitious Advent calendar run by the Immigration Office.
The first act of misery opened with an alarm clock. A symbol that anyone who wants to get an appointment at the authorities has to get up early. As a result, there were newspaper reports of endless queues in front of the offices, of hours of queuing. Thousands of applications are waiting to be processed. The problem: When a residence permit expires, every day counts. Because if you can't present a valid one, you can't legally do any work, for example.
Many immigration authorities in Germany are so poorly organized that you only get an appointment to extend your residence permit when the residence permit has long since expired, said Böhmermann after opening door two. "Until then you are in a mystical intermediate administrative world and you get your very own magical residence documents for this purpose." These are so-called fictional certificates. These entitle you to stay in Germany while you wait to be told whether you are really allowed to stay in the country or whether you will be deported after all.
Door by door, Böhmermann then shows the whole absurdity of the processes. It's about important documents that collect dust in piles in the authorities and eventually become untraceable. About how the mobile phones of refugees are frisked using surveillance software, about handcuffs and ankle cuffs, which are part of the equipment of the officials, and also about how people are lured into office by the authorities under false conditions and thus into the deportation trap. And it's also about what Böhmermann finds behind door nine: a small-minded asshole. This means all those officials who use their position to threaten the refugees, among other things.
It is no coincidence that the ZDF Magazin Royale chose this topic shortly before the Festival of Love. So it was also love that Böhmermann and team gave the viewers to take away with them on their way - in musical form. Together with Mark Forster they sang the Christmas classic "All I Want For Christmas Is You".
Böhmermann presented the secrets that lurked behind the first nine doors on the show, the other doors will be opened daily on Instagram until Christmas. If you still want to watch the show afterwards, you can find it in the ZDF media library.