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”
Iraqi Hassan (right) and Syrian Muhammed (left) share their greatest passion: children. They cheer up whenever they mention their family. Reassuringly, Muhammed has a residence permit in Germany. However, Hassan’s future in Europe is still uncertain. He is terrified to return to Iraq. In the queue of a Syrian restaurant, Hassan shows us photographs of the destruction that bombings have caused in his country.
Dreams for the children
Since Cornelius and I were introduced to the Syrian Kitchen we cannot get enough of it. Whenever we are in the mood to go out, we head out to a Middle Eastern restaurant. In Berlin, we opted for a Syrian establishment that served a delicious dish of roasted chicken. We barely managed to get a table and when they took our order, other hungry customers were queuing up outside.
Continue reading “‘The biggest dreams I cherish are for them.’”
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”
Melek* moved to Belgium two years ago, when her husband, a Turkish diplomat, was assigned to Brussels. She took unpaid leave from her job in a prestigious Turkish institution. Their lives were perfect until the 15th of July 2016, when an attempted coup in Turkey turned their lives upside down. Her husband was discharged and she was dismissed from her job because she was married to him. Unable to return to their country for fear of persecution, they applied for asylum in Belgium. Lacking money and fearing retaliation, Melek struggles with her new life.
Despite her full schedule finding a job, learning French and Dutch and undertaking unpaid research as a PhD candidate, she decided to write a piece for RefuTales. One year after the failed coup, she’s ready to speak up.
Continue reading “Refugees bothered me, now I’m one myself”
Five young men tell their story about their struggle to find a job, or start an education.
Taher (21), Obaida (21) and Omran (21) were in the same kindergarten class, seventeen years ago, in Daraa, Syria. Since then, they are like brothers to one another. Mohammed (24) is Taher’s older brother, they arrived in the Netherlands through Germany 18 months ago. Jeremy (21), who studies Social Work, is a Dutchman with a passion for refugees. He helps Mohammed practice his Dutch language skills. Taher, Mohammed and Omran now all live in the province of Zeeland. Obaida lives further to the east, in Brabant, and is visiting his best friend Taher for the day. I speak with them about living in the Netherlands.
Continue reading “Four young Syrians Reflect on Dutch Culture”
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.
Continue reading ““I just Want a Travel Visa to Turkey””
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"