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”
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”
A.*, an independent woman from Syria, had established a life for herself in Greece, working for an international company. While helping other refugees, she had to apply for refugee status herself. She did so in the UK and was granted refugee status recently. A. talks about her current life, as she is applying for jobs. She’s no stranger to the cycle of poverty.
Where to live as a refugee
Since May 2017, A. lives in an apartment in one of the suburbs of London. “Finding a place on your own is difficult, as most private parties require either an advanced payment or a job contract. Luckily, I got my current house with help of my religious community.” Considering where to live after one is granted refugee status is tricky. “You get priority if you apply for housing in the place where you are staying at that moment. But that might not be where the jobs are or where you can easily find a strong social network.”
Continue reading “Refugees Lack the Money to Find a Job”
A.* is an independent woman. First, she worked in the family business in Syria. After that, she went to Greece and established a life for herself there. But with a change of rules came a change of place. A. now lives in London, has recently received her refugee status and is eagerly looking for a job.
Successful in Greece
According to A., people from Syria didn’t use to travel much abroad before the war. “In Syria, we have everything – mountains, deserts, rivers, sea, history. When I was younger, I visited all cities in Syria. They each have their own beauty, even though many of them are destroyed now.” Having great beauty at home didn’t prevent A. from moving abroad, though. “I wanted to experience the Western way of life. I was really keen on doing so and applied for a visa ten years in a row.”
Continue reading “After Decade in Greece Not Welcome Anymore”
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”
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.
Continue reading "Governments Should Give Refugees Netflix to Make Language Learning Fun"
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
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.”
Continue reading "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 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”