NUREMBERG, Germany — “On the primary day of the Taliban takeover, they got here to my home and took away my automotive and the weapons we had,” says Seema Stanikzia, an Afghan lady in her mid-30s.
About Our Particular Challenge
To mark Worldwide Migrants Day on December 18, RFE/RL’s language companies have come collectively to deal with the migrant and refugee points most affecting the 23 nations in our broadcast area. You will discover all of our tales and movies from this particular undertaking right here.
She is sitting within the kitchen of her condo in Rennweg, a neighborhood of Nuremberg in south-central Germany, the place she lives together with her husband and 4 youngsters. There’s meals on the desk and the room smells of saffron and freshly baked bread. The very first thing Stanikzia does is provide everybody a drink.
“[The situation with the Taliban] pressured me to go away my homeland,” says Stanikzia, who has two daughters and two sons and needed her daughters to go to high school.
Because the Taliban’s return to energy in Afghanistan in August 2021, most excessive colleges for women have been closed, girls have been prohibited from attending college, and a few have been banned from working.
Many public locations — together with gyms and parks — at the moment are off-limits for ladies. Whereas the Taliban did not immediately threaten her or her household, Stanikzia says, it was the extremist group’s draconian restrictions on girls that pressured them to go away.
Whereas Stanikzia nonetheless longs for house, her household now has political asylum and everlasting residency in Germany. They did not face any important issues after they arrived, she says; in actual fact, fairly the other: On their first day in Germany, they received free transport from the airport to their lodging and cash for meals and different requirements.
“The entire course of was very well-managed,” she says.
What makes Stanikzia even happier is the data that, sooner or later, her daughters can go to high school.
Issues had been very totally different within the Nineteen Nineties. The primary time Meho Travljanin tried to make it to Germany, he was 9 years previous and had misplaced his footwear within the forest. It was 1992 and the start of the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Along with his mom and two brothers, Travljanin tried to cross the border from Slovenia into Austria, solely to be caught by the police and despatched again. One other 12 months handed earlier than Travljanin was given the inexperienced gentle and allowed to reside in Germany.
Travljanin, who now resides in Berlin, is certainly one of over 350,000 refugees that escaped to Germany throughout the Balkan wars of the Nineteen Nineties, which killed over 130,000 folks and displaced thousands and thousands. Three many years later, Germany has taken in thousands and thousands of Ukrainians, Syrians, and Afghans, drastically altering how the nation welcomes and integrates migrants. However for the Bosnians who’ve been in Germany for many years and for the newer arrivals from Afghanistan or Ukraine, a lot of the core expertise of being a refugee has stayed the identical: Integration and acceptance remains to be an extended and arduous course of.
‘Duldung’ And ‘Hajam’
In a park close to his condo the place he walks along with his spouse and two youngsters, Travljanin remembers his first try to attempt to get into Germany.
“I used to be [just] sporting woolen socks…all muddy and, with my brothers and mom, we had been ready for the practice again to Trbovlje,” says Travljanin, referring to the city in Slovenia they had been being despatched again to.
After that first ill-fated try, the household obtained a letter of assure from a relative who had been dwelling in Germany for some time. They lastly left Bosnia, one 12 months after fleeing their war-torn hometown of Sanski Most within the north of the nation.
In these days, it was all about “duldung” and “hajam.” The German phrase duldung “means to place up with somebody,” Travljanin says. It was additionally the official identify of the refugees’ visa, which needed to be prolonged each six months.
“It was a really traumatic expertise for us all, as a result of it was an extended wait,” he says.
Hajam was a Bosnian rendering of the German phrase heim, which means house. It’s actually an attractive phrase, Travljanin says, however again then it had a barely ironic or pejorative tone.
One other Bosnian, Hasan Mehmedovic, spent 80 days dwelling in forests round Tuzla, the nation’s third-largest metropolis, earlier than he managed to flee to Germany in February 1996. A Bosnian Muslim, he was expelled from his hometown of Drinjaca, within the east of the nation, when the conflict started in 1992. Earlier than making it to Germany, he largely lived in Srebrenica, the place Bosnian Serb forces massacred over 8,000 largely Muslim males and boys in a conflict crime that has been legally outlined as genocide, together with by two UN courts.
Mehmedovic’s arrival in Germany did not put an finish to the uncertainty. Due to a difficulty along with his paperwork, he ended up preventing German paperwork for 9 years, earlier than he ultimately obtained his everlasting residency. Mehmedovic’s spouse, who has been in Germany since 1992 and now has 5 youngsters, nonetheless doesn’t have everlasting residency.
Dwelling in a state of authorized limbo, Mehmedovic wasn’t allowed to go away Germany to go to his father’s funeral in 1999. And because of restrictions on his freedom of motion, it was 4 years earlier than he returned to Bosnia to put his father to relaxation, solely after he obtained permission to go away Germany for seven days to bury certainly one of his brothers who was killed within the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. Mehmedovic’s brother was certainly one of 6,700 of the estimated 8,000 victims to be buried within the close by village of Potocari.
For essentially the most half, the Bosnian refugees weren’t complaining, although.
“We had sufficient, our condo was paid for. We even had our excursions paid for,” says Travljanin.
His fellow Bosnian, Mehmedovic, skilled a lot the identical, with a paid-for condo and social help all through his keep.
Acceptance, tolerance, handouts — what duldung did not imply was integration.
“I want Mother had labored, if we had been part of society, if we weren’t on social welfare, if we weren’t dwelling in hajam. I want Mother knew German, if we had been one way or the other built-in,” Travljanin says. “You were not allowed to work, to go to school, to go to commerce faculty. The one factor that minors needed to do, as a result of the regulation stipulated it, was go to elementary faculty.
“There was no deliberate coaching of individuals, whether or not it was the language [or] some extra training, as a result of it was not anticipated that these folks had been going to remain. And it actually was like, ‘You are right here whereas the conflict lasts, and when the conflict ends, you may return to your nation,'” Travljanin says.
Travljanin discovered the uncertainty — relentlessly ready for the opposite shoe to drop — very tough. Together with your homeland being destroyed by conflict, it was completely regular to consider staying in Germany, Travljanin says. However again then, it did not even appear to be an choice.
From Tolerance To Integration
As of June 2023, 13 million out of Germany’s 83 million residents are international nationals, in line with knowledge from the Federal Statistical Workplace of Germany. The newer arrivals have been higher served by the system, with Germany making big strides in the way it integrates international migrants and refugees, significantly concerning training. Since 2005, the Federal Workplace for Migration and Refugees has provided integration programs that embody German-language instruction.
By 2019, greater than 2 million folks had participated in this system, Saskia Geltenpoth, a spokesperson for the migration workplace, tells RFE/RL. “The goal of the combination course is for contributors to have the ability to act independently by way of the German language and be capable of get by in on a regular basis life,” Geltenpoth says.
For Stanikzia’s household, this system has carried out precisely that.
“My sister goes to high school; my sons. too. They discovered German and at the moment are actively concerned of their research,” Stanikzia says, including that she remains to be studying the language. “It is the regulation right here that an individual has to be taught the language first; that is a primary requirement. For individuals who wish to be taught extra, there are extra language courses.”
Fariba Aram, a younger journalist from Afghanistan, can be studying German. She left Afghanistan for Germany in February 2022 due to threats she was receiving from the Taliban. A neighbor of Stanikzia, she typically comes for lunch, as do different Afghans dwelling within the Rennweg neighborhood of Nuremberg.
“Seema is the most effective prepare dinner,” Aram says. “Studying the language is essential. For the Germans, it is necessary that you simply be taught their language.”
Analysis carried out yearly since 2013 by the Analysis Heart of the Federal Workplace for Migration and Refugees exhibits that data of the German language has elevated amongst refugees, in addition to their contacts with the native inhabitants. In 2020, for the primary time, greater than half of the refugees who got here to Germany between 2013 and 2016 assessed their German-language expertise as “good” or “superb.”
Geltenpoth, the spokeswoman for the federal migration and refugees’ workplace, says that language expertise are a key aspect in a profitable integration program.
“Quite a few empirical research present that talking and understanding the language of the host nation of residence facilitates entry to social contacts, training, or the labor market,” Geltenpoth says.
After spending most of his life in Germany, talking the language is now second nature for Travljanin, though he needs that the scenario within the Nineteen Nineties was totally different.
“They only threw you into class,” he says, with out realizing the language. “I went to elementary faculty from the fifth grade and, by the eighth grade, I knew German very well.”
Mehmedovic additionally needs issues had been totally different again then. Now 60, he lives in Berlin along with his spouse and 5 youngsters and says he needs that he had discovered German and will work to assist his household.
“I had the will to work, however, theoretically, there was no probability,” he says.
Germany’s Labor Scarcity
Germany’s altering method to the way it welcomes and integrates migrants has been partially prompted by the nation’s labor scarcity, because of an ever-shrinking workforce and an getting old inhabitants. Over the previous few years, it has been migrants — in Germany and extra extensively throughout the EU — who’ve helped plug the gaps.
“There are extra alternatives for Germans and foreigners, migrants, and in addition refugees. We presently have near 2 million job vacancies that aren’t stuffed,” says Karl Kopp, head of the European division at Professional Asyl, a company that aids refugees and migrants upon arrival in Germany.
Everybody wants staff, Kopp says, from small companies to bakeries to corporations searching for extremely expert technicians. And Germans plan every thing, Travljanin says, together with what number of migrant staff are wanted to complement the nation’s workforce.
“With the intention to keep the extent and wealth of every thing we have now right here as a rustic, we’d like a number of hundred thousand new staff yearly,” Kopp says.
After eight years of bureaucratic battles, Mehmedovic obtained his everlasting residency in November 2005, giving him the precise to enter the German workforce. He labored numerous totally different jobs through the years and is now retired and receiving a state pension. The scenario is a lot better than it was within the Nineteen Nineties, he says, just because the nation wants extra staff.
Most German politicians, Kopp says, have realized that it’s neither clever nor humane to maintain folks out of labor and youngsters out of college simply because they’re ready to grow to be residents of this nation. “It is higher,” he says, “to start out integrating early.”
Now there are refugees from Bosnia working within the German parliament, Kopp says.
“They’re now not refugees,” he says. “They’re German residents, politicians, and [they] signify their districts. I might say that is method. I’m satisfied that in case you do it proper, [it] shall be profitable.”
Migrants (Not All the time) Welcome
Europe’s migrant disaster, which divided politicians and publics and emboldened the far proper, peaked in 2015, when thousands and thousands fled the Syrian civil conflict and the brutal rule of the Islamic State extremist group. Germany alone took in over 1 million Syrian refugees, inspired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who gambled her political profession by opening the nation up. “We will do it,” she implored, and the slogan turned a preferred chorus.
In line with analysis from the Berlin-based Knowledgeable Council on Integration and Migration, the vast majority of folks in Germany categorical solidarity with refugees.
“Three out of 4 persons are able to donate cash,” says Nora Storz, a researcher on the council.
Nearly two-thirds of the 4,000 folks polled in February and March of this 12 months mentioned they might be ready to assist refugees, for instance, by accompanying them to a bureaucratic appointment.
Such a heat welcome has largely been Aram’s expertise, and she or he says she hasn’t obtained any abuse or harassment in Germany.
“Possibly it is due to the legal guidelines that stop dangerous remedy of migrants,” she says, including that generally she will get “appears” from older folks. Younger folks, Aram says, do not appear to have an issue with migrants.
That does not imply that refugees are by no means focused.
“Some folks right here do not put on Afghan garments after they exit,” Stanikzia says, “as a result of they are saying that the Germans hold gazing them.” They need to be pleased with their tradition, she says, as a result of that’s what defines them.
For Noor Ullah Arian, a 33-year-old refugee who additionally labored as a journalist in Afghanistan, it wasn’t simply folks staring. On his journey from Afghanistan to Germany, Arian says he was overwhelmed and verbally abused, together with being attacked by police in Belarus. A few of his buddies died alongside the best way; others had been injured however did not have medical health insurance or cash for remedy so needed to return to Afghanistan. Worldwide rights watchdogs, together with Amnesty Worldwide, have expressed considerations in regards to the remedy migrants obtain on the Polish-Belarusian border, the place they’re typically forcibly returned to Afghanistan.
“Nobody deserves to be insulted or overwhelmed,” Arian says. Life then, he provides, simply wasn’t value dwelling.
Racism towards folks of shade can be on the rise in Germany, in line with a survey revealed on the finish of October by the EU Company for Basic Rights (FRA). Together with Austria and Finland, Germany had the best charges of discrimination from the 13 nations surveyed. And for the primary three months of 2023, there was a rise in assaults on asylum seekers and their lodging, in line with knowledge from the Infomigrants web site, which is co-financed by the European Union. Within the first 9 months of this 12 months, there have been 1,515 assaults on migrants — often carried out by far-right extremists — a rise from 2022, the place there have been 1,371 assaults all through the entire 12 months.
Whereas assaults on migrant facilities seize the headlines, refugees are made to really feel like outsiders in different methods. In any case these years dwelling in Germany, studying the language, after which getting citizenship, Travljanin wonders why he’s nonetheless thought of a migrant in many individuals’s eyes. Regardless of having spent most of his life in Germany, Travljanin says he generally feels that what’s necessary is his final identify. “You communicate German completely,” he says, “and other people nonetheless ask what you are doing right here?”
In some respects, politics is catching up with in style opinion, and never each politician in Germany has been as keen about migration as Merkel.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany’s center-right opposition get together that Merkel used to steer, has just lately known as for a whole overhaul of asylum guidelines. Mario Voigt, the pinnacle of the CDU within the German state of Thuringia, mentioned on December 11 that, “We’re a cosmopolitan and hospitable nation. However hospitality doesn’t suggest eradicating the entrance door. As a substitute, hospitality means deciding for ourselves who and what number of come into our houses.”
German political watchers say the CDU’s proposed tougher line on migrants is partly an try to attract votes away from the far-right, anti-immigration Various For Germany (AfD) get together, which has its voter base within the former East Germany. With an financial downturn and rising alarm over unlawful migration, the get together is now seeing file ranges of recognition, polling at 22 p.c nationally. In state elections in Hesse, held on October 8, the AfD achieved its greatest outcome ever in a western German state, coming second to the CDU with 18 p.c.
Even Olaf Scholz — the chancellor who changed Merkel in December 2021 and who’s a member of the center-left Social Democratic Celebration — mentioned that too many migrants had been coming to Germany and that the authorities will “now differentiate extra exactly.”
“On the one hand,” Scholz mentioned, “it’s in regards to the immigration of staff, which we’d like. And it is [also] about these in search of asylum — for instance, as a result of they’re being politically persecuted.” Should you do not belong to both of these teams, the chancellor mentioned, you should not be capable of keep in Germany.
Scholz additionally mentioned that the German authorities ought to start large-scale deportations, saying that those that stay within the nation mustn’t solely work “however reside and combine as properly.”
As a rustic, Scholz added, Germany has the precise to determine who it needs to confess.
“Certified staff and [talented people], for instance. And this doesn’t have an effect on [our responsibility] to offer safety to all those that are fleeing political persecution, who’re fleeing conflict and loss of life. The essential proper to asylum is embedded in German historical past,” Scholz informed the German information web site Der Spiegel.
A primary proper, in line with Scholz, however are these rights utilized equally?
Stanikzia says that generally she appears like Afghans and Ukrainians are handled otherwise — for instance, in lecture rooms. Whereas Kopp says that taking in 1 million Ukrainian refugees was a hit story, knowledge from the Knowledgeable Council on Integration and Migration confirms Stanikzia’s sense that not all refugees are created equal.
In a ballot carried out by the migration council in July, respondents made a transparent distinction between folks of various origins and religions.
“For instance, 67 p.c of respondents would accompany Ukrainian refugees [to help with a bureaucratic task], whereas 63 p.c would do the identical for Syrian or Nigerian refugees,” says Storz. “The identical applies to faith: 66 p.c of contributors would assist Christians and 63 p.c Muslim refugees.”
That might merely be prejudice, Storz says, or maybe it is because of “a way of [cultural] proximity to Ukrainian and Christian refugees.”
‘You By no means Overlook The Place You Had been Born’
For Stanikzia, it was the worst day: the day she left Afghanistan. Regardless of the brutal restrictions of Taliban rule, Stanikzia was reluctant to go away her homeland. After she received permission from the German authorities to come back, she nonetheless waited round six months earlier than leaving Afghanistan.
“We hoped that the Taliban would change, that perhaps they might open the faculties after which we would not have to go away the nation. However that did not occur, and we made the choice to come back right here,” she says.
“You’ll take into consideration your homeland on a regular basis. You always remember the place you had been born,” Stanikzia says. “The largest problem of immigration is the gap from household and family members.”
Travljanin agrees that not seeing family members is the toughest half.
“I have not lived in the identical metropolis with my brothers and mom for over 20 years. When you could have all these stunning moments in your life and the people who find themselves crucial to you aren’t there, it is tough,” he says.
It is the little issues that assist. Stanikzia likes to arrange Afghan delicacies — for her household but in addition her neighbors within the Nuremberg condo block the place they reside in. Each day, with out fail, she takes the time to arrange conventional Afghan saffron tea.
For Travljanin, it is Bosnian espresso — a practice he honors each Saturday.
“That is my house. I reside right here. My youngsters had been born right here [and] I used to be educated right here,” he says. “That is the place I work. That is the place my buddies are. However there’s at all times this eager for one thing else, [even though] folks largely do not know what they’re eager for.”