as told by “S” (Note: “S” teaches German at a refugee camp in Germany.)
Today I had a totally interesting German lesson day. In fact, we did close to no German at all. There were only a few participants and so the whole atmosphere was quite relaxed and personal. A young man from Pakistan got a private lesson from me (there were even two teachers!) After a few minutes of lessons, it was clear that he needed to talk just about life, and since he spoke passable English, we were able to do that.
Hassan started his tale by complaining about the other refugees that I think he is meeting in the camp. Basically, he feels that all they do is sleep, sleep, sleep and some drinking and he is different, he wants to learn English. He told us he has no friends or family and no job, so what he has is time and he wants to dedicate every moment to learning. I got a bit of a feeling that he is quite lonely. He seemed to be asking for access to more German lessons, but I didn’t know how to help him off-hand. I told him I would think about what can be done get back to him on that. He comes to all the German lessons anyway, so I’m sure I’ll see him again.
He showed me his papers. He has some sort of residency status which expires in a few weeks. After that, he hopes to get a residency permit for 3 years, which would include a work permit. This seems to be very important to him. Then we got to talking about languages again and he told us that he speaks Greek quite well! “Well, I asked him, “How did that happen?” Turns out he has been living in Greece for the past several years, but came to Germany because he had been illegal for that time. He had been arrested for not having the proper papers and so, it was time to leave.
This is not the first time I’ve heard stories like this. Seems like a good chunk of the refugees who have been storming the German borders are people who beforehand had been living in other countries in Europe for years, but have been illegal and always living on the fringe. One man from Tunisia who I had met has been living in Italy for 18 years. Doesn’t really speak Arabic or French. Only Italian. So Germany, besides taking in all the war refugees is also taking in the refugees from other countries within the EU with failed immigration policies. This is not mentioned at all in the press.
Hassan continued his tale. His mother and father are old and poor and live in a quieter place far from Karachi where things are safe, but they are very poor. He is the oldest of five children and has two unmarried sisters. He very clearly feels responsible for supporting them all.
His first stop, I think, after leaving Pakistan was Saudi Arabia, where he worked in a clothing factory. He said he was a tailor, which may be something he had already learned in Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia, the hours were long and hard (14-hour-days) and the pay was poor if at all. The bosses made the workers jump up for their chairs when they entered the room and it sounds really like slavery.
Life in Greece was a little better with not such brutal working hours. He was selling clothes in the streets, I think. The big problem was the illegality, with no chance of anything changing. Interestingly, he said that Greece was really bad for him regarding the Nazis. The Pakistanis there (in Athens) are afraid to go into certain neighborhoods, always travel in groups and never go out at night. He had a little scar on his head from being beaten up and they broke his arm as well. A hard life there as well.
Germany for him so far has been a paradise. He actually may finally, at age 38 after years of hard work, have a chance at working papers here. He gets 350€ a month of state assistance. And most happily for me, he finds the people nice. Everyone seems to be helpful and he doesn’t feel threatened. Even when I mentioned Pegida, he said that may be, but he has had only good experiences. One town over from us is a nest of neo-Nazis, but he hasn’t been there.
We talked a little about the refugee crises and Merkel and he understood the problems. When I mentioned that the wave seems to include a lot of immigrants from within Europe (like himself), he put the whole issue into very financial terms. In Spain (I think it was), the people have no chance of anything. If they are eligible for state help at all, they receive something like 70€ a month. For a family to arrive, and then get 350€ per person, that is a huge difference.
Now that I think about it, this illustrates a very valuable lesson on what is wrong in this world (one of the things at least). Here is a serious, honest man who has spent his whole life working hard, earning nothing and existing in the fringes of every nation he has lived in. His labors have helped the Saudi factory owner get richer than we can even imagine, helped someone in Greece get richer and have given him absolutely nothing.