Hundreds of African migrants were paid almost NZ$933 to leave Italy and go to Germany.
The Italian authorities offered the refugees from Libya, Ghana and Togo the money as an inducement to leave, according to the interior ministry in Berlin. "Refugees were slipped the money under the advice that they would go to Germany," it said in a letter leaked to a newspaper.
Thousands of asylum seekers have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa since the beginning of the Arab Spring and the cash handout was introduced as an incentive for them to move on.
But 300 refugees have set up camp in Hamburg, infuriating the Germans. Italy has given them travel passes that allow a three-month stay, insisting that Germany can then send them back.
Hamburg social affairs minister Detlef Scheele said: "They have no legal right to accommodation or state support [in Germany] and it would be irresponsible to give them false hope."
The offer of free train tickets back to Italy has had no takers. Bavarian minister Joachim Hermann denounced Italy's actions as 'shameless'.
- Daily Mail