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Culture

My piece of hope: Amine carries his loved ones in his phone

Amine left Tunisia just before the latest terrorist attacks in his country. The pictures on his cell phone provide comfort while he spends months waiting for his asylum process to start.

As hundreds of thousands of refugees are entering Germany, the country is facing the challenge - and opportunity - of the century. In this DW series, "My piece of hope," refugees share their personal stories of persecution, escape and waiting. Each individual shows one significant object they've brought with them on their journey - their "piece of hope."

Everything Amine owns fits into a small backpack. Some t-shirts, two pairs of trousers, soap and a phone that crashes almost every minute and takes a lot of patience to charge. Amine doesn't really mind though, for its content reminds the 21-year-old Tunisian of the treasures he left behind.

His photos of home are colorful: They show laughing kids, Amine's house and the street where he used to play as a child. "Sometimes I ask my mom what has changed at home. Sometimes she tells me what she bought or what she's changed in the house. I ask my father to show me the house too," says Amine.

His favorite photo - his piece of home - are his brother's children in a chair. Amine's niece pulls up her belly towards the camera and smiles, while her older brother leans against her shoulder.

The family still lives in Tunis. Amine came to Germany by himself. The constant threat of terror, poverty and a lack of perspective left him no choice. He says these words without emotion. His face only lights up again when he looks ar this photos.

Even though Tunisia is relatively stable compared to other countries that went through the Arab Spring, terror networks are successfully recruiting new members, particularly in rural areas. According to estimates, more than 5,000 al Qaeda and "Islamic State" (IS) fighters in Syria and Iraq are originally from Tunisia - that's more than any other Arab country. The latest attack in Tunisia was a shooting on a beach resort in Sousse that left 38 tourists dead in June.

These clashes are the reason Amine worries about his brother a lot: "He works with the police in Tunisia, sometimes there are fights between police and terrorists. Then I get worried and ask my mother if he's okay. So far, she's always said he is."

He has been waiting at the Berlin State department for Health and Social Affairs (LaGeSo) for five months for his asylum process to start. Until then, he is technically "illegal" in Germany, which is also why he doesn't want to appear on DW photos.

Amine often talks about a "better life in Germany," about a fresh start and the long overdue light at the end of the tunnel. He hasn't come across any of these yet. He has a hard time expressing how difficult it is, speaking slowly and hesitantly: "When you leave your family and you live on your own - sometimes I just cannot make it without them. I need help," he says. Even the best Skype connection in the world can't cure loneliness.

Amine expected it to be much easier to find work in Berlin. He studied IT in France, after all.

"I sent my CV to three or four companies in Germany and they called me back. When I said I'm a refugee and that I'm waiting at LaGeSo, they all said: 'No, you have to wait until your situation improves. Then we can call you.'"

At LaGeSo, Amine is also constantly reminded of the fact that his home - unlike many others' - still stands and that he hasn't lost family members during a bomb attack. "I feel very bad when I see Syrian refugees. That's why I don't often say that I'm not happy. When I see these little kids with their mothers sleeping on the streets… When I see people who haven't eaten for two days, that makes me very sad."

Is there an alternative to waiting? Amine can only imagine going back home if his situation still hasn't changed in a year. And then there's his biggest fear which he almost casually mentions at the end of a sentence. "When I see the situation in Syria or when I watch the news, I'm worried that this will happen to my country as well."

He draws circles onto his black phone display. His phone has turned off again.

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