Visit to an English Class in late October 2017
I am visiting a large room filled with weak autumn sun in South London, from where a drop-in for refugee women is run twice a week. In the corner, a small child is contentedly playing with a train-set, while shrieks and happy chatter come from the nursery next-door. The theme of today’s English class is education, and on the whiteboard the group facilitator has written the simple question ‘How did you learn as a child?’ Today’s group of 10 women, some new to the group, others regulars, hesitantly start to consider how to answer this question about their lives in this mostly unfamiliar, but common language that they now share -English.
Continue reading “English Lessons – starting again in the UK”
Arabic language teacher Aziz* from Syria started a master’s degree in the UK in 2010 and had to apply for refugee status upon finishing his studies. He has not been back home ever since. In this second part of the interview, Aziz shares his recommendations on the asylum process in the UK, drawing from his personal experience and work with other refugees.
The importance of language
Aziz has been living in the UK since 2010 and has a love for languages. “During my studies, I was helping friends who were studying Arabic. They found it useful and I enjoyed it. After I was granted refugee status, I decided to pursue a career in teaching – first freelance and now full time.”
Continue reading “When a refugee becomes a teacher”
After the failed coup in Turkey, more than 200 NATO officers, including almost all Turkish diplomats stationed in Brussels’ headquarters, were ordered to return to their country. Firat’s* Turkish bank accounts were immediately frozen, his diplomatic passport was revoked and his university diploma was cancelled. He is saddened that NATO has barely responded to this. Firat applied for asylum in Belgium, and is expecting a decision from the Belgian authorities
The ex-officer testifies from his heart about the rule of law, how he experienced the coup far away in Belgium, and his new status as a pariah. For security reasons he wishes to remain anonymous.
NATO officers purged in Turkey
The failed coup of 15 July 2016 was a turning point in the lives of various Turks. Besides the shockwave this news created, the Turkish government took drastic measures to to crush dissent. The media was tarnished and more than 100.000 people in the public sector, including teachers and judges, were fired because they allegedly pledged their allegiance to Fethullah Gülen (the alleged brain behind the coup).
Continue reading “Purged Turkish NATO Officer discusses Asylum Limbo”
Arabic language teacher Aziz* from Syria first arrived in London in 2010 to pursue his master’s degree in the UK. In March 2011, while he lived in London, protests started in his home country. ‘It took me a while before I realised I couldn’t go back home anymore – probably some 6 months into the revolution.’ So he filed for asylum upon finishing his studies. This is his story.
A war back home
Aziz remembers the start of the Syrian war very clearly. “A friend of mine said that there were protests going on in Damascus. We couldn’t really believe at first that such a thing was possible. I followed the news daily, read reports and kept in touch with people in different parts of the country.”
Continue reading “When a student at a UK university becomes a refugee”
One rarely meets people who can incite others with their strength and zeal for life. Sally Ghannoum is such a person. One year and a half after her arrival in Belgium, she managed to establish a Syrian restaurant with the help of dozens of new friends.
We met at Dilbi Falafel in Antwerp while savouring the tasty cuisine. It soon became clear that Sally had more to offer than just oriental dishes. One could refer to her as the embodiment of successful integration.
In the heart of the Arabic neighbourhood
Dilbi Falafel is not exactly a business you’ll stumble upon, but there has been a steady growth of customers through word of mouth. It’s located at Diepstraat 60, about a ten minute walk from the train station of Antwerp. Suppressing my first impulse of entering the shopping street (known as ‘De Meir’), I made my way towards the Arabic neighbourhood. Sally dreams about a big restaurant at ‘de Groenplaats’, but for the moment she settles for her cosy restaurant. And she’s right. The location might even add to its charm.
Continue reading “How a Syrian Director opened a Restaurant in Antwerp”
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.
Continue reading “Some Europeans Think Refugees Come from the Jungle”
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.
Continue reading "Integration Course Teacher: Integration Impossible Without Respect for Norms and Values"
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.
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.
Continue reading “Syrian Scientist Refugee: Belgian Integration Courses Aren’t About 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.
Continue reading "Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part III: Crime and integration"