Why this story matters:
Germany has been a popular destination for economic migrants from the Balkans. In former Yugoslavia countries, the German word "Gastarbeiter" ("guest worker") remains widely used to describe work migrants, although in a somewhat derogatory fashion.
The exact number of people leaving Balkan countries in search of work and better lives is unknown, but reports estimate it may be in the tens of thousands.
Fake news media have seen this as a chance to get more people to visit their websites and have recycled a months-old debunked story about visa-free work in Germany for citizens of non-EU countries.
Dozens of portals have republished this completely made-up story as "breaking news," giving false hope to thousands who are thinking of leaving. We are well-aware of the political dangers of fake news, but perhaps the time has come to investigate their psychological impact on readers as well.
Details from the story:
- In October 2017, anonymous portals in Bosnia published fictitious articles about a "new law" passed in Germany that would allow instant work permits for anyone interested.
- The story spread so fast and far that the German Embassy in Bosnia had to issue an official statement refuting the claims.
- Last week, those claims resurfaced again, switching the start date of the law from Jan. 1, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019.
- "Anyone who finds employment will be able to work just like EU citizens, without going to the embassy or applying for a work-visa," the false story claimed once again.