Before I start saying anything, I want to note that I don’t mean to drag down any government or country, this post is purely about my feelings.
I will start briefly by going back to early 2016, when I was living in Dubai, I somehow always felt threatened by the idea that I am a Syrian there, not because anything happened to me personally, but probably due to the visa restrictions that my cousins were going through, and even though there was never any discrimination that I personally went through in Dubai, I felt like I needed to be in a place where maybe just maybe I don’t require a visa in, being unhappy in my job, and bored with the corporate world were also leading factors to why I decided to move to Lebanon.
Beirut, I was head over heels in love with Beirut. The people, the atmosphere, living independently, having a new job in the humanitarian field where I actually felt like I am accomplishing something, I was so happy. However, this happiness didn’t really last, as racism started coming at me from all sides, not a single day would pass without me feeling like an intruder in Lebanon, like an unwanted guest, like someone that definitely doesn’t belong.
Little by little, Beirut started chocking me, the happy road beach trips were trips where my eyes would haunt racist signs, and the journey to work in the morning turned to fights with racist taxi drivers, you get the picture, also the fact that my organization was soon to be closing down, and that I felt the need to pursue my academic knowledge in Humanitarian work played a big role in why I decided to move to Europe.
As I applied for an Erasmus programme, and started raising funds to go to a place where humans are respected and treated with dignity, little did I know what’s coming my way. When I got the acceptance, I was over the clouds, but not half as happy as I was when I reached my funding target, I knew that for once after 2 years, being a Syrian won’t be a reason why I will be discriminated against.
The first time I realized that wasn’t really true, was when I visited the “aliens’ office” (yes its called aliens not foreigners) I went in there with a smile on my face, waited in line until I got to the old lady that was working, and here is how the conversation went:
Farah: good morning, I am a student that just arrived in Germany, I was told by the consulate where I got my visa from that I need to visit you to get my residence permit.
Old lady: *says something in German*
Farah: I am really sorry, but I just arrived here, and I don’t speak German.
Old lady: *says something in German*
Then the security guard approaches me and speaks to me in English saying that the old lady is saying that they are not operating anymore today, and I should come back tomorrow at 6 am.
Farah: oh ok, thank you, can I please know the operating hours as my first day of university is tomorrow and I won’t be able to come this early.
Old lady: *hands me a piece of paper written in German*
Farah: again, I am really sorry, but I don’t understand.
Old lady: Translate it!!!
I was so pissed off, I felt hated and belittled, and like my dignity is worth nothing, but I convinced myself that maybe she is old and grumpy, and it’s an individual act.
It was only 2 days later, when I was walking with my Danish friend, he is blond with blue eyes, and I am dark skinned, with brown eyes, and brown curly hair, we were speaking in English, when a woman walking passed us actually hit me, she had her hand in a fist and hit me on my thigh as she walked past me. I honestly laughed it off, I thought maybe she’s not that sane.
Later on, when I went to register my apartment in the city council, I went there with a young Syrian man that speaks German, trying to avoid the previous experience, we sat there in front of a young man, who was processing my papers, and I had a few questions regarding opening a bank account, and so I asked the young man if he speaks English, and he looked at me and replied “yes” but before I could respond he turned his gaze towards my Syrian friend, and continued to speak in German, later my friend explained that the young man told him that he wasn’t allowed to speak to me in English.
That was when I realized that in order to get anything done in Germany, you need a German speaker by your side, and that was literally how it went from there.
To open my bank account I had a German with me, to get a mobile sim card I had a German with me, to recharge my phone I have a German with me, to get my health insurance I had a German with me, to order at the bar I need a German with me, to ask for directions I need a German with me, and so on.
After checking with the university, and some other international students, I managed to figure out what are the required papers for me to get my residence permit, and so I went to the website of the aliens’ office, and booked an appointment I received an auto-reply saying that they will come back to me the soonest, but to make sure I also called them, the answering machine told me to send an email.
And so that’s what I did, and I waited, after 2 weeks with no reply, I went there (with a German of course) the security didn’t let me in, he said that I have to send an email, when I told him that I did, he responded with “then wait”
After 5 weeks with no response, I went there again, and they told my German friend that they take time to reply, and I should be patient.
My initial 3 months entry visa expired on the 30th of November, my family are residing in Dubai, and my residence permit in Dubai expires if I don’t enter the country within 6 months, I left in September so it would expire by the end of February.
I have a month and a half to get my residence permit in Europe, but I was also informed that after I submit my papers, they would take 7-8 weeks to give me my residence permit.
Which means I don’t even know if it is possible for me to see my family anytime soon, considering the visa restrictions on both of us.
Now going back to my Erasmus programme, as my first semester in Germany, my second semester has to be somewhere else in Europe, and I chose the Netherlands. Last week I receive an email from the immigration desk telling me that considering I still don’t have my German residence permit, I need to apply for a Dutch visa, and that makes sense theoretically, except for the fact that whatever funds I raised were in a German blocked account to prove that I can sustain myself throughout my one year stay in Germany, and the Dutch now needed a proof that I can sustain myself in the Netherlands too. So technically, I can’t do it, I can’t apply to a Dutch visa.
And then I look around, at my German, Dutch, Danish, Australian, and American classmates, only worrying about paper submissions and exams we must study for, and it all comes back to me.
I will never not be treated like a Syrian… I am stuck and I don’t know what to do anymore… and Europe doesn’t really give you the feeling that you lost being treated inhumanly in developing countries.
And the truth is, I am not okay…