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Germany

Syrian refugees in Germany contemplate return home

Some Syrian refugees in Germany have made arrangements to return home voluntarily. DW has spoken to a few of these refugees about the challenges they face.

Umm Majed (a pseudonym) came with her two sons from Syria to Germany a year and a half ago. Her journey was fraught with danger, as is the case for many Syrians. She now lives in a refugee center in Berlin, while her husband still lives in the Syrian capital Damascus.

"I decided to leave Syria because of the war, which brings with it a lack of stability, as well as a constant fear of death. My husband refused to leave, despite the difficulties that he faces there," she told DW.

Now Umm Majed is looking in another direction, as she wishes to return to Damascus. 

When asked by DW about her reasons why she wanted to return to Syria she replied "I came here to Germany not wanting to return to Syria. But now I have made the decision to return home to be reunited with my husband. I am in constant contact with him. The living conditions at the refugee center are tough."

Umm Majed's oldest son has turned 14 years old and lives in Germany with her. He is often on the streets with older peers, and has become rebellious towards her.

"I've decided to to return to Syria without my oldest son. The conditions in Germany are much better than Syria and he could be drafted into the military back home. It's better for him to stay here so he can get the most out of the education provided in Germany," she said.

Umm Majed went to the German youth office regarding the possibility of leaving her older son in Berlin and also received legal guidance there. She is making her last arrangements to go to Damacus - informing the German police and buying her plane tickets. She will fly to Beirut along with her younger son, and then they will proceed to Damascus.

When she is asked about leaving her older son here in Berlin, she replies, "The decision to leave my oldest son here is not an easy one. I'm heartbroken, but his place is here.”  

With tears streaming down her eyes she says: "This is the destiny we face as Syrians. This crazy war has torn apart families and displaced people all over the globe.”  

Ibrahim Family

The Ibrahim family, another Syrian family in Germany, is in a similar situation. They also live in a refugee center in Berlin but they are dissatisfied by the lack of improvement  in their lives there. They have three children. "There is no private life here," said Mr. Ibrahim "We are in a narrow space with dozen of strangers." 

Berlin Flüchtlingskinder in Notunterkunft (DW/C. Chebbi)

Syrians in an accomodation center

The family shares one room but then there are other community rooms, which are are often dirty. The management of the center often changes, which makes it difficult to address problems. These issues make Ibrahim think of moving back to Syria with his family.

Mr. Ibrahim worked as a trader of autoparts in Syria. The deteriorating economic situation in Syria pushed him and his family to move from Syria to Berlin. His older brother, who took over the management of his auto shop back home in Damascus, tells him nowadays that "the economic and security situation there is improving."

Mr. Ibrahim thinks it's important that his children grow up in the family atmosphere back in Syria. He also alluded to the fears he has of his kids growing up in the West away from Arab and Islamic traditions. Like Umm Majed, he has begun arranging a journey back to Syria through Lebanon.

Youth services

Deutschland Kindernotdienst Berlin - Leiter Uwe Bock-Leskin (DW/C. Chebbi)

Uwe Bock Leskin, who works for a child protection service in Berlin

"We have to impose the law immediately if a family decides to give up a child for any reason " said Uke Bock Leskin, deputy director of a youth protection foundation in Berlin. He emphasized that minors are protected under existing social law. He also mentioned that giving up a child to youth services is a very limited phenomenon.

"We have to act swiftly in this case to provide a suitable living accomodation for a child or young person," he told DW.

Murat Arslan, who works for a refugee council foundation in Berlin, told DW that the phenomenon of Syrians returning home from Germany is not new. This has been happening more and more over the past couple of months, as it has been with the Iraqis in Germany over the last year.

He advises Syrians returning home that "the situation in Syria is still dangerous."

"As an NGO we can't prevent people from traveling, all we can do is warn them of the dangers they could face back home," he added. "There is also not any organization here in Germany that will bear the costs of them choosing to return to their home countries," he concluded.