Syrian refugees who are fleeing the war from Syria, often seek refuge in Germany. They dream of reaching Germany to rebuild their lives and have a better future. But is Germany truly the land of opportunity? To answer this question, two teams from the R-SOS Unit in Lebanon and Iraq have travelled to Berlin and met with representatives of public institutions, scholars, humanitarian workers and refugees themselves, to get a clearer picture of the attractiveness of Germany to Syrians.
Many refugees who reach the German soil only carry their school diplomas with them. While it’s true that with a school diploma, access to universities is almost automatically guaranteed, representatives from the Academic Advising Service of TU Berlin, explained however that Syrians with a Syrian school Diploma can only access University if they have an average of 70%, otherwise they need to enroll in a preparatory year and pass the required exams.
The representatives also highlighted another challenge for refugees: German Language. In fact, all the subjects at the university are taught in German (save for some subjects in Master’s level) and therefore students are required to have a C1 level in German, which is not easy to achieve and adds additional stress on refugees.
It is important to note, that all refugees must register at the State Office for Refugee Affairs (Landesamt fur Fluchtlingsangelegenheiten) to initiate the asylum process. Due to the lengthy nature of this process, students can enroll at the university even if their status as refugees is not officially recognized. On another note, the State Office for Refugee Affairs, offers short-term housing for refugees at the former airport Tempelhof and grants them the “Ankunftsnachweis” certificate so they could receive social benefits (housing, food and medical care).
Integration in the job market, is also a priority for Syrian refugees who have families to sustain. Many refugees who arrive to Germany are highly skilled, they are either lawyers, doctors or engineers. While engineers can freely work with their diplomas, doctors need to sit additional tests. The diplomas of lawyers are never recognized since the German legal system is different from the one in Syria.
The R-SOS Unit teams from Kurdistan and Lebanon had the chance to meet representatives from the Career Counseling center for refugees and asylum seekers (Team Asyl and Berufsinformationszentrum). This center is present in different parts of Germany and provides advice for refugees on how to build a CV, how to write a good motivation letter, and how to prepare for an interview and eventually land a job.
Those skills can also be honed at the General counseling for migrants in Berlin (The Commissioner of the Senate of Berlin for integration and migration). This center is accessible for all the refugees, and migrants who are looking for opportunities and fresh starts in Berlin or in Germany in general. Also, the staff who work in these public institutions stressed on the importance of German language to integrate job market and build a successful career.
Often, it is hard for refugees to integrate in a new society, especially if they come from war-torn countries. Nevertheless, refugees in Germany have the opportunity to get a free psychological follow-up at the Center Uberleben. This Center supports rehabilitation and integration of refugees and migrants. It offers medical and therapeutic treatment for traumatized adults, children and youth through psychodynamic, psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. The patients who come to this center are referred by institutions and facilities who closely work with refugees. The center also boasts a shelter for women who are victims of war or domestic violence.
In a similar vein, Berlin City Mission, is offering a shelter for refugee families. The shelter hosts families and individuals from tormented countries, who live side by side with German individuals suffering from substance abuse and homeless people. Berlin City Mission is thus a compound of shelters, giving a second chance for people who had a difficult start in life or suffered from war, displacement and abandonment.
To wrap up, Germany has facilitated the integration of refugees by creating strong facilities and institutions that support refugees, ensuring free education, and fair access to the job market. This, coupled with favourable labour market conditions make Germany an attractive option for refugees from different backgrounds.
This article has been written in the framework of a study visit performed by RESCUE partners last summer (2019)