And now here I sit and Germany has proven to be a trap for me, a deep hole of bureaucracy in which I am stuck. It is a matter of the life of my children. I have a panicky fear it will soon be too late.
My asylum process hasn’t even begun yet and it is quite possible that I will even have to wait until the end of June for my first hearing. It could easily be a year and a half before I can have my family join me.
Can it be that family fathers are deliberately discriminated against so as not to get all the dependents coming into the country as well? It seems to me to be like in soccer -- the politicians are playing for time, "Let’s see how long the guys can hold out."
Chaos reigns in the German immigration authority offices. When I arrived at the registration office in Hamburg, I had the feeling I had entered a war zone. People were lying around on the floor; some had thrown up in some corners. It stunk. I called my wife and showed her it all on the cell phone so she would believe me. That was the first time we talked about it perhaps being better if I went back.
A month ago, I then actually decided to return home. I was lying on my bed and reading the news on my smartphone. I saw on Deutsche Welle’s Arabic page that your government now doesn’t want to allow us Syrians to send for our families. That finished me once and for all. I wasn’t even able to cry anymore.
When Bassam, my best friend here, returned to the camp, I immediately told him about it. Bassam is also a Syrian and came to Germany with his two sons. His wife and daughter are still living in the countryside outside of Damascus; they are constantly on the run. It was immediately clear to the both of us what the info about family reunion means. We have to go back. We are responsible for our families. Our wives and children are all that we have. If they die, our lives are worthless. Bassam is more fortunate than I am, his family is already close to the Turkish border. My family can’t manage to get out of Aleppo without me.
Bassam always says Allah decides when death will come. But when it comes, we should be with our families.
But before I go, I want to ask you for one more thing, Mrs. Merkel. Be honest with us Syrians! There are thousands still wanting to come to Germany. I tell my relatives in Aleppo at every opportunity, don’t come! But no one listens to me. So you tell them, Mrs. Merkel, so that more people won’t put their lives at risk.
We then asked the camp management how we can get back to Syria or at least to Turkey. They sent us to a social worker, a good-hearted woman, but unfortunately she couldn’t help us. There is no help for people like us. Albanians, Kosovars and even Iraqis are given money if they return to their countries. Not Syrians. It’s too dangerous, they say. If we want to go, we have to try on our own.
The nice social worker went through the motions of applying for a visa for me for Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. But none was successful.
So I’ll have to take the same way back that I came. This time in reverse order -- through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Greece to Turkey. Then across the border and through the war zone.
I know it sounds like lunacy and I am also crazy with fear. But I have no other choice.
I calculated that I need about a €1,000 if I am very frugal. I still am entitled to pocket money that the German state pays out to refugees. The rest I’ll borrow from relatives from Syria who have been in Germany already some time. As soon as I have the money, I’ll be off. My bag is already packed.
I’ll try to travel as much as possible by bus to avoid controls. I have to walk across the borders. I’m familiar with that already from the way here. Get out before reaching them and make your way through the bushes.
To be honest, I don’t know what is awaiting me in Aleppo. The situation changes too quickly. I’ll be returning with empty hands, if I survive the journey. The only thing I’ll be bringing are injuries that fortunately my sons won’t see -- humiliations.
My greatest worry is that the rubber rafts only travel in one direction, to Europe. I have no idea how I’ll get across the ocean.
But I must try
Your Arif Abbas (name changed)
Translated by David Anderson