Interview: Samh H. (Refugee Living in Germany from Syria)
This is part of my “Question and Answer” series, where I interview people who live (or have lived) in Germany. For this interview, I talked to someone from Syria who lives in Germany.
When did you first arrive to Germany? How was it that you chose Germany (did you have a choice)?
I arrived in Germany December of 2015. However, before Germany, I lived in Egypt for 3 years. My legal documents were quickly expiring and I couldn’t renew my permission to stay in Egypt. I had heard that many people were leaving for Europe on the news so I made the decision to move. I wasn’t sure about which country at first, I was actually thinking about Sweden. However, after talking to several people I decided on Germany because I wanted to apply for gay asylum.
What is the difference between gay asylum and normal asylum?
I’m not exactly sure what the difference is, because all of the refugees living in Germany have the same rights. This was more a personal thing for me. I had suffered a lot while living in Syria. I lost everything and my life had completely changed. One of the main reasons why I don’t want to go back is because I am gay.
Can you tell me what your experience was like the first day that you arrived in Germany? What were you feeling? Were you alone?
Actually, there are a lot of people in my group. It was probably around a few thousand. We came to Germany through Austria and then stayed for a night in Passau. It was a bit intense. The German police however, were very friendly and when they noticed that I spoke good English, I didn’t have any problems. Also, the German volunteers were very friendly. They gave us food and hot soup because it was cold and snowing.
Then we went by train after the police checked us over in Hannover. In Hannover, our group was about one thousand people. They then separated us into small groups consisting of 30 to 40 people. My group went to Husum (northern Germany). They gave us the option of going to another camp for registration if we didn’t want to stay in Husum. I eventually ended up in a small town near Hamburg (by train it’s only 20 minutes).
Can you tell me about your living situation after arriving to the small town? What kind of assistance have you received?
To answer this, I want to start from the beginning. At first, I had to wait for my interview at a local German registration office (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge). I stayed in a house with about 30 other guys and I was not allowed to work because I did not have permission to live here yet. After I got my permission, I started an integration course. Then I had to register at the Job Center for social benefits. I was lucky because during this time I found a flat and the Job Center paid my rent. So I basically continued my German integration course while learning how to become integrated. After some time, I found employment working part-time as a bartender for an event management company.
Could you describe some of your experiences during the beginning with the “integration process”? Do you feel like you are part of the community or do you feel like an outsider?
The experiences that refugees encounter (regarding integration) varies greatly. I can tell you that I have made great connections and friends that have helped me a lot! I have also had very nice neighbors. I now live in “Glückstadt” and I see many people on the street who I can say hello to and have small talk with. This is not only limited to my neighbors of course, but also in the local bakeries and coffee shops. I feel very lucky!