Refugees bothered me, now I’m one myself

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.

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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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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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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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