In October 2016, several publications drummed up outrage over a Syrian refugee, referred to only as “Ghazia A.,” who was reportedly receiving close to $400,000 annually in benefits from Germany to support his four wives and nearly two dozen children.
Although some outlets published their stories with headlines outright stating that this man was already receiving that amount in benefits (for example: “Germany: Muslim Migrant with Four Wives and 23 Children Receives $390,000 a Year in Benefits”) the number did not come from an official source and was not confirmed by the German government. Some sites did, however, make note of this lack of confirmation:
The family could be receiving more than £320,000 a year in benefits according to a financial manager on the Employers’ Association website.
There is no official confirmation on this figure.
Rumors about “Ghazia A.” began with an article published by German newspaper Rhein-Zeitung on 1 August 2016. The newspaper detailed how the man, his wives, and their children were settled into several different municipalities near Montabaur and noted the difficulties they had adapting to their new communities, as well as how internal conflicts developed because only some of the family members could receive social benefits.
The claim that “Ghazia A.” was receiving close to $400,000 annually in benefits was derived by a third party who used the man’s circumstances to calculate a theoretical number. Financial expert Hubert Königsstein looked at the man’s unique circumstances and estimated the theoretical maximum amount the man could conceivably be receiving based upon that information:
It is interesting to note that you can have such a large family in Syria without the state giving anything – while in Germany 4,000 women and 23 children can receive 30.030 € = money (in 360.360 €).
Before we go on in the text: interested readers can get the basis for my calculations upon request. Please note that some details are not to be found, so that facts and costs were partly estimated according to life experience.
In other words, Königsstein estimated how much a man with four wives and 23 children might receive in social benefits in Germany, not how much this specific refugee actually received.
A municipality spokesperson told German news service Deutsche Welle that this is not how benefits work in Germany: the country’s laws prohibit polygamy and do not allow someone to receive benefits for multiple families. Rather, Ghazia A. would have to select one wife and her respective children to be eligible for social assistance. However, the rest of his wives could apply for benefits on their own.
Königsstein, Hubert. “4 Frauen, 23 Kinder.”
Deutscher Arbeitgeberver. 3 October 2016.
Bayliss, Charlie. “Syrian refugee with FOUR WIVES and 23 CHILDREN ‘claims £320,000 a year in benefits’.”
Express. 25 October 2016.
Domagała-Pereira, Catherine. “Syryjczyk, jego 4 żony i 23 dzieci: wszyscy na socjalu.”
DW. 28 October 2016.
Ferdinand, Thorsten. “Syrischer Geschäftsmann reist mit vier Ehefrauen und 23 Kindern ein.”
Rhein-Zeitung. 1 August 2016.