Berlin- Hoping for a brighter future, Ahmad Lababidi and another man who gave his name only as Ahmed D. arrived in Germany from Syria 12 months ago but were forced to endure frustrating waits and crushing boredom.
Lababidi, 23, who studied economics at Damascus University, remembers the day the official letter arrived, July 30.
A volunteer helped him decipher the good news hidden in the dense, bureaucratic text: he had been granted refugee status and a three-year residence permit.
At the time, he said, he smiled for the first time since November 18, 2015 when he hugged his parents goodbye and left for the arduous trek to Europe.
“I lost everything in Syria — my home, my friends, my university, so I dream of rebuilding my life here,” he told Agence France Presse.
He has attended German language courses, spent hours in the library and practiced German conversation with native speakers.
He said he wants to resume his university studies when his command of German allows, and find a job, “no matter which one.”
Of those who came last year, hundreds of thousands are still waiting for news on their asylum status and do not yet qualify for language courses, which at any rate are largely oversubscribed.
At this stage, perhaps 160,000 have joined official integration courses, said Herbert Bruecker of the state-run Institute for Employment Research.
“Much remains to be done because language is the key to integration,” the researcher said. He pointed out that, while one third of the asylum seekers went to high school or university, another third had only primary-level or no schooling at all.
Ahmed D., a Palestinian from Syria, said he is still baffled by everything — the paperwork, the language, daily life.
In August, he was summoned for his compulsory hearing at the migration office.
“There were hundreds of us that day, waiting for hours before being heard. Some were sent home because there were too many people,” the 36-year-old recounted.
Ahmed has also received a three-year residence permit but his path towards integration looks far more bumpy.
Lacking marketable job skills, he was already living off odd jobs in Damascus before moving to a refugee camp in Jordan.
He has not learned a word of German and relies on his Iraqi roommate to help with his paperwork.
So despite his work permit, Ahmed has turned to day labor jobs on construction sites, flying under the radar of tax authorities and running the risk of being scammed.
“I worked for two weeks and the man who found me the job disappeared, and I never saw my money,” he said.
Meanwhile, media reports said on Wednesday that new draft legislation would make it harder for some migrants who have been denied asylum in Germany to obtain waivers to stay in the country.
In addition, the legislation would require authorities to notify migrants only 30 days before their scheduled deportation, so as to minimize the opportunity for them to go underground to avoid leaving the country.