GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — The country’s largest-circulation tabloid called him the “scandal asylum seeker” and accused him (falsely) of entering the country illegally. People hacked his social media accounts and broadcast his location and personal information. A far-right political leader decried him as the “ringleader” of a violent protest, while another even suggested people like him would be a good reason to bring back the death penalty in Germany.
Alassa Mfouapon is hardly the first refugee to become sensationalist fodder for tabloids or a convenient scapegoat for far-right, anti-immigration politicians. In the five years since a major wave of refugees arrived in Germany, such portrayals have become commonplace.
But the 31-year-old from Cameroon is the first to take them to court for those depictions — and win.
In the process, he has emerged as an ideological lightning rod in the debate over refugee politics in Germany, his journey highlighting the disconnect between the country’s image on refugee issues and the reality for many of those who seek asylum here.
German court ruled that aspects of the police’s handling of the Ellwangen raid were illegal. The court did not rule entirely in his favor — it said, for example, that his 2018 deportation to Italy was legal, and that people in refugee facilities like Ellwangen cannot expect the same privacy rights as ordinary citizens. But his case has spurred a re-examination of the treatment of the Ellwangen incident in the German news media, drawing more attention to the voices of the refugees involved.