Blocked account provider scandal: “Authorities have failed”.

Some of the foreign students already in Germany received the overdue payment for July last week. Others are still stranded. Uncertainty prevails, especially among students still abroad.

Those who had already received payments from the blocked account provider “BAM Bundesweites Anlagemanagement” before June until it reported “technical difficulties” are in luck. In the middle of last week, some of those affected received the back payment for July. The Federal Association of International Students (BAS) welcomes this step, but at the same time urges that the transfer for the rest of those affected take place quickly. The BAS also advocates immediate repayment of the entire sum. The DSW promised fast, unbureaucratic financial help through the already existing channels via the local social counselling centres. The BAS points out not to forget those affected who are not pursuing studies or are not yet enrolled at a university.

On Thursday, BaFin presented the roadmap for the orderly transfer of international students’ deposits to alternative providers. But BAS is not giving the all-clear just yet. “Prospective students who opened the blocked account with BAM to apply for their study visa will also be required to open a new blocked account with another provider. BaFin has since announced a process for this, but it is likely to drag on,” Fabian de Planque, BAS finance officer, elaborates. “The issuing of visas is time-critical. It won’t be long until the start of the winter semester. A non-bureaucratic solution is needed here.” BAS is campaigning for the sum to be sufficient as proof of funding. “The embassies should waive the proof of a blocked account to make up for the great damage, even if there is no declaration of commitment. A new blocked account cannot be set up so quickly and the students are not to blame for the situation. After all, the Foreign Office shares responsibility for this scandal,” de Planque concludes. “The authorities have simply failed. How can it be that such dishonest dealings were not noticed earlier? The scandal has only become possible because the business of brokering blocked accounts is not regulated.”

There was also criticism about the information policy of the authorities as well as the bank. “The communication is a single disaster. Those affected were kept in the dark for a long time about the next steps. Enquiries from students to the BaFin are still being turned away, although the Foreign Office refers to them,” Malú Ortega Méndez, AStA officer for international students at the University of Mainz, is annoyed. “Aareal Bank, where the students deposited their money, and BAM, provider of the blocked accounts, also refer those affected to the other.” BaFin clarified on Thursday that the settlement must be made directly through Aareal Bank. Previously, the student representatives had received numerous complaints about the bank’s inadequate communication. It had become apparent that the blocked account provider BAM could not be relied upon, as it had recently put customers off for 14 days with an automatic reply. “Eternal 14 days it seemed, because this message was the answer to all incoming emails for more than a week,” notes Nadia Galina, BAS board member.

Benjamin Kley, RefRat Study and Teaching Officer at Humboldt University Berlin, criticises the handling of the data of those affected: “The bank is now demanding that copies of sensitive personal data be sent by email. This is outrageous, because there are already established secure transmission channels for this. E-mail is the most insecure medium imaginable.” Due to the concerns, the student representatives have already called in the Federal Data Protection Commissioner. “Quick solutions so that those affected can get their money back are one thing. However, it must be guaranteed in any case that the sensitive data does not fall into the wrong hands,” Kley continues.

Currently, the Foreign Office has taken all providers off its homepage and is talking about revising the list. The BAS demands that only providers be included on this list who are banks under the control of the BaFin and who are directly permitted to make deposits with blocked accounts.
In general, the form of proof of livelihood security should be reconsidered and abolished.