Counseling offices and neighbourhood initiatives are very helpful. Refugees can go there and get all sorts of advice.
When I arrived in Berlin, it was not hard for me to find my way around. I asked police officers or the people in my environment – for example the staff of the hostel I stayed in or the social workers in Haus Leo. Haus Leo is a quite and nice place, I like the neighborhood as well. Some people of the neighborhood even left a message on the sidewalk: “Welcome: We are one”. It was for the refugees who live in this house.
The biggest problem for newcomers and refugees in Berlin is to find a place to stay. They can go to shelters or hostels, if they have a paper by Lageso¹. But it is not easy, because they have to travel around the whole city to find one. When they reach a hostel, sometimes the place is full or the hostel owner does not accept the paper. If a refugee is unlucky, he or she even has to stay outside for one night.
We also see that some people in Germany attacked refugee shelters. For these reasons we did not put hostels and shelters on the map – although it is such important information.
Government offices, like Lageso and the Bundesamt for Migration are essential to refugees. Support from the society, like counseling offices and neighborhood initiatives, are very helpful as well. Refugees can go there and get all sorts of advice to answer question like: How can I live Germany and what are my rights?
Berlin is a big city; some places are far away. It must be possible for refugees to use public transportation in order get to the places where they find help and support.
Speaking German is crucial for refugees, even if it is only “Guten Tag” or “Können Sie mir helfen?”. Two months ago, I registered at a language school but I still have to wait another month for the course to start. At the moment, I keep myself busy with work and translating.
It sometimes takes a long time until refugees get their registration in order to obtain a “Berlin pass” to buy the BVG ticket. But without that ticket it is very expensive to move in Berlin. And Berlin is a big city; some places are far away. It must be possible for refugees to use public transportation in order get to the places where they find help and support.
With the German police I’ ve had two experiences. First, when I arrived with my wife and daughter at the main station in Berlin. I went to the police and said “I need some help” because we did not know where to go. I showed him the address and my documents. I waited for some minutes and then he came back and said that we could use a bus if we had a ticket, if not we could walk.
The second time I met the police while riding my bike and talking on my mobile. They stopped me and said that I was not allowed to do that. I asked him if he could give me a warning because I was not aware of that rule. In the end I had to pay 25 Euro – so it was not too bad.
I often go to the library to read books. It is a good place to spend time because there is Internet and many possibilities to find information.
I already knew German before I came to Germany. Therefore many things were much easier. Finding a German course is crucial for newcomers and refugees because it helps them to find their way into society. There are courses for non-registered refugees as well, provided by neighbourhood initiatives, in the “Volkshochschule” but also in refugee camps.
It is important that people have access to doctors who speak their language, for example Arabic or Farsi. For this reason we put these doctors on the map.
I often go to the library to read books and to learn. There are books in Persian and Arabic as well. It is a good place to spend time because there is Internet and many possibilities to find information.
For refugees it takes sometimes one or two years until they get the residence permit and the German ID. They can spent that time positively, while learning in the library, studying the language or by doing sports.
In Haus Leo, the house we live in, we have Internet access as well. It is more than just accommodation for refugees. The staff and social workers are helpful and kind people. It is really a special place.
Many refugees face the same problems, as they have to wait for a long time. Transportation tickets, doctors and also accommodation are among the biggest concerns for them.
The first problem I encountered was to get all the necessary documents and to find a doctor. I did not know anything about the tickets for transportation or government offices. When I came here and tried to register at Lageso it was very busy.
It took two months until I got my insurance papers. Many refugees face the same problems, as they have to wait for a long time. Transportation tickets, doctors and also accommodation are among the biggest concerns for them.
In the first days I could not find a place to live, so I stayed with friends – Syrian and Kurdish people. The most important thing we could not find yet is an apartment. When we talk to the companies, and tell them that the Jobcenter will pay for the rent, they refuse.
I visit a German course every day now. In three months, I will finish the first level. German is difficult, but not too difficult, it is possible to learn.
I have a wife and two sons. My children go to school daily. It is good for them, because they can learn when they are young; and they definitely learn faster than me.
¹ The “Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales” (LaGeSo) in Berlin-Moabit is the first adress refugees have to go to register. A successful registration is the condition to receive financial support and the necessary papers such as an insurance card.