“I just Want a Travel Visa to Turkey”

Hussein has travelled alone from Aleppo, Syria, to Germany. He has already achieved a level of B1 in German and is currently refining his language skills. His life in Europe is pretty good. The only thing that is difficult for him, is the separation from his family (Hussein’s brother and parents live in Turkey). He’s in touch with them, but can’t get a visa for a visit.

“To be be separated from each other isn’t easy, but there’s nothing we can do. I made the choice to come here (Germany, ed.). And I have never regretted it. It’s good here. I must bear the consequences of my choices.

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If we Direct them to the Right Source, Refugees have Brilliant Ideas

Gulwali Passarlay is an author, TEDx speaker, activist and politics major. He is a commissioner for Children’s Commision on Child Poverty, and has been a representative of the National Scrutiny Group. He is also a refugee. At the age of 12, Gulwali’s mother paid smugglers to take him and his brother from Afghanistan to Europe, in a twelve-month odyssey through which he endured time in prisons, starvation, cruelty, and violence. Whilst Gulwali has achieved many extraordinary things since then, it is these experiences of migration that have made him into the man he is today.

While the media have written extensively about these experiences, his opinion on migration and refugee inclusion have hitherto largely remained uncovered. To TERN and RefuTales, Gulwali talked in-depth about opportunities and barriers towards global citizenship.

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Some Europeans Think Refugees Come from the Jungle

Mustafa Aljaradi (31) comes from Raqqa, Syria. He is a political refugee. In his native country he strongly criticized Assad’s regime and ISIS. However, out of fear of retaliation, he fled to Turkey three years ago and finally reached the Netherlands through Germany. He feels it’s his duty to raise the world’s awareness. On Facebook and Twitter (@Mjaradie) he shows us, through writings and images, the terrible consequences of the Syrian civil war.

Before his arrival in the Netherlands Mustafa had to register his fingerprints in Germany, which slowed down the procedure. In the Netherlands he noticed the prejudices and the disunity about the refugee issues, so he is an advocate for the availability of more background information about refugees so that the general public can revise their opinion. Concerning integration he believes that the best way to fit in one’s society is to master its language.  For this purpose, he has a few practical tips at hand.

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Integration Course Teacher: Integration Impossible Without Respect for Norms and Values

Abdeslam El Ghamri has Moroccan roots and lived in Belgium since 1995. He describes himself as ‘happily married and dad of 4 children’, and places a great deal of importance on his work as teacher for societal integration. He works at the Belgian Government Agency for Immigrant Integration, helping newcomers find their way in Belgian society.

Abdeslam is an excellent teacher. Not only is he charismatic and very committed to improving society, he is a migrant himself, so knows his students’ obstacles and opportunities well.

Let’s discuss all taboos in integration courses

Despite the bad weather, Belgium remains, for me, one of the most attractive countries in Europe. Not because life here is better than anywhere else, but for the sake of democracy, freedom and equality among all citizens. Everyone here is of equal worth: regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, etc. There is solidarity between the strong and the weak, with respect for every human being and animal.

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Governments Should Give Refugees Netflix to Make Language Learning Fun

RefuTales-founder Sajida Altaya not only wants to share her opinion, but also give a taste of her culture – quite literally. According to her, you get to know a person through their kitchen. Proudly, she invited her co-founders to her family home in Stuttgart for a typical Syrian dinner.

We learned that her sister Heba has a totally opposite view on the importance of learning the local language. 

A sister’s quibble

With the help of her daughters, Sajida’s mother Waheba was responsible for the cooking. They spared neither cost nor effort: guests are cared for to perfection, serving fresh tabbouleh, stuffed vegetables, soups and homemade fries. In between, we enjoyed cakes, fruit juice, tea and Syrian coffee. It was delicious.

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Belgian Refugee Camp Fed Us With Butter as Meals Were Insufficient

Architect Sara* and software engineer Saïd* married before fleeing Syria for Europe. They have been granted asylum and are living in a small but cozy Belgian apartment. He is enrolled in a Masters in Computer Science, she in an intensive Dutch course. They were so kind to invite us into their home, where they enlightened us about the living conditions in Belgian refugee camps.

Belgian reception Camp

Food

Sara shrugs her shoulders. “We were often hungry. If we ever had some money left, we bought chocolate. I would have rather eaten pasta, but we didn’t have cooking facilities in the camp.”

“The camp management knew that the canteen meals weren’t enough to fill our stomachs, so they gave us an ice cream sized scoop of butter with every meal, three times a day”

Her husband jumps in: “The food they served us was barely eatable, and it was hardly enough for a woman, let alone a man. The camp management knew that the canteen meals weren’t enough to fill our stomachs, so they gave us an ice cream sized scoop of butter with every meal, three times a day. It was disgusting. Sara got sick and needed to consult a doctor. He prescribed to change her diet, but the organization wouldn’t let her.”

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Syrian Scientist Refugee: Belgian Integration Courses Aren’t About Integration

Architect Sara* and software engineer Saïd* married before fleeing Syria for Europe. They have been granted asylum and are living in a small but cozy Belgian apartment. He is enrolled in a Masters in Computer Science, she in an intensive Dutch course. They were so kind to invite us into their home, where they enlightened us about their struggles to find a job.

Warm welcome

Easy-going thirtysomethings Saïd and Sara had agreed to meet us in their Belgian apartment. Having never met them before, we had no idea what to expect. A small lift took us all the way to the top of a high-rise housing block, building up the tension we already felt. This was our first real interview.

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Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part III: Crime and integration

In Parts I and II of our interview series with Sajida, we talked about the asylum procedure and culture shocks. Now the story continues. The third and final part deals with sexual assaults, learning German, and her fight to carry on with her university studies in Europe.

Part III: Crime and integration

Last time we talked about disrespect. What went through your mind when you heard about the assaults during New Year’s Eve in Cologne?

“I was shocked, of course!

It took a while before the news reached our camp. Because none of my neighbors followed the news, I learned about it by hearsay. It was tough. I repeatedly asked myself, why? Why would anyone do that? I didn’t get it. I still don’t. I know that humans are capable of atrocities. Just look at what’s happening in Syria… but mass sexual assault? No, I couldn’t grasp it. My heart was bleeding.

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Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part II: Adapting

In Part I of our interview series with Sajida, we talked about her arrival in Germany. Now the story continues. Part II of this three part series deals with the asylum procedure, safety and culture shocks and her trying to adapt to the new situation.

PART II: Adapting

What was the asylum procedure like?

“When we arrived in Germany, we filled out basic paperwork to apply for asylum. Over the following months, we were asked to provide more information about who we were, where we came from and why we wanted asylum. As we could prove that we had come from Syria, we didn’t need to fill out further papers. Others, who didn’t have the appropriate prove of identity had to go into more depth.

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Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part I: Arrival

In this grappling interview, Refutales founder Sajida Altaya shares her experiences as a refugee in Europe with her co-founders Dorien Dierckx and Cornelius Roemer. Part I of this three part series deals with her journey to Germany and the first months there.

Part I: Arrival

Why did you leave Syria?

“My family and I didn’t feel secure there anymore. In the summer of 2014, the town I grew up in, about an hour drive south of Damascus, turned into a place of fighting between the government’s forces and rebels. As a result, we moved to Damascus itself in the hope that things were quieter there.

But even there, the situation was dangerous so after a month we decided to flee to Europe like many others. It just wasn’t possible to carry on with regular life anymore. My sister decided to stay with her husband in Damascus, however we took her 9-year-old daugther with us, in the hope that my sister could follow later. She and her daughter are now separated for more than two years.

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