This term came up in the German news today, and I had to read through a fair bit to grasp the meaning.
So, you have to relate the term "Phantom" refugee to each of the sixteen German states. On the books at some point, probably in early 2015....a state will have X-number of refugees noted in their land. By German law, each refugee is entitled to 670 Euro a month per refugee (doesn't matter if they are approved for visa or on the waiting list).
In Germany, the federal government controls all of the tax revenue, and they disperse it based on information they receive. So each state said their numbers, and received an allocation ahead of time.
The term "Phantom" refugee? As life progresses in an individual state, this is a guy or gal who has discovered that life in this particular German state isn't working. It could be a bad impression with the job-center. It could be negativity among the locals of that state. It could be some confrontation with the police in that state. So the refugee just packs up and leaves for another German state.
By not telling the state, and the state not aggressively counting these folks....it's receiving funding for non-existent or 'Phantom" refugees. The two states in big trouble? Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. At some point, Saxony said it had 17,741 refugees existing....but the reality was 13,920. For Xaxony-Anhalt....they had roughly 2,400 "Phantom" refugees on the books.
If you stand back and review this....there are several implications.
First, there is no incentive for any of the German states to be highly accurate about this situation. One might laugh and suggest that it's grossly unfair for a state act in this manner, but the German federal government appears to be willing to just adjust the numbers and not force each state to pay them back.
Second, the excess money? Where did it go? Unknown. That's part of the amusing slant to this article. No news team or journalists have gone to ask about this. Statue-money? Park benches? Renovation money for state buildings? Unknown. They obviously spent the money but it's just a black pit situation.
Third, a lot of this national policy was about 'fair' distribution of refugees so that certain states (Hint: NRW) would not end up with the vast amount of refugees within their state. It would appear that with all good intentions, some states (Hint: NRW) will end up with more than their fair share of immigrants.
Fourth, there just isn't an accurate database of immigrants and refugees. The longer you look at this "Phantom" issue....the more you can distrust the individual databases of all sixteen states. Nor is there an incentive to have an accurate database.
Fifth, you would sit and ask....as the one single individual packs up and leave Saxony for another German state....did they even out-process via their local city hall (a normal requirement of all Germans)? The odds are...no. They just packed and left.
What the German federal government has said now, upon looking over this mess is that they will change the rules to pay each state for only those refugees within their state....to start in 2017. The odds of this plan working? One might ask this but there simply isn't any reliable way to say that things will change.
In the end, you just stand and admire a bureaucratic mess. You would think, with German thinking and planning, that they would have invented enough details to ensure 'Phantoms' did not occur, and that simply isn't the case. How many actual refugees exist in Germany? After looking at this, I don't think you can be sure anymore.