Baghdad ends scholarships for Iraqi students abroad | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.01.2017
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Baghdad ends scholarships for Iraqi students abroad

The Iraqi government has been cutting its scholarships for students to study abroad. This has caused stress for Iraqi students in Germany, who now have no way to finance their graduate education in Europe.

Screenshot Demonstration von irakische Studenten in Bagdad

'Investing in minds ensures the future' reads a sign of one student in Baghdad protesting education ministry cuts

Austerity measures have forced the Iraqi government to withdraw its scholarships for students to study for graduate degrees in Germany and other Western countries. Many students now have to figure out how to finance the remainder of their stay or leave the country. 

One such student, "H," who wanted to remain anonymous, said that her dream of getting a graduate degree at one of the universities in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is now impossible. She has been studying in Germany for three years.

"The Iraqi austerity measures have cut our stipends here in Germany, and because of this we now face an unknown future," she told DW.

Irakischer Ministerpräsident Haider al-Abadi (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Jensen)

President Haider al-Abaidi has implemented austerity measures to cut Iraq's deficit

Residency challenges

This isn't the first time this has happened to Iraqi students in Germany. The government in Baghdad has often had to cut grants to students abroad in the midst of financial crises. The students then have to fund their stay in the country out of their own pockets while hoping that the ministry of education will reinstate the grant.

With the financial aid suspended, the students have to prove they have a "guarantor" (for example, the Iraqi government) in order to get their residence permits extended. If they don't have their government backing them up financially, they then have to prove they have 9,000 euros ($9,600) in the bank to cover the academic year. This amount is even higher if a foreign student brings his or her family to Germany.   

"We hope that the German authorities change their decision in this regard, but so far their response has not been what we wished for," the student referred to as "H" told DW.

Another anonymous Iraqi student, "E," said the decision by the Iraqi education ministry to cut the scholarships was unfair.

Screenshot Demonstration von irakische Studenten in Bagdad
Screenshot Demonstration von irakische Studenten in Bagdad

The 'No to reducing scholarships' Facebook page raises awareness for cutting Iraqi students' stipends

"The Iraqi government has inflicted an injustice on its students studying abroad in countries like the United States and Britain," he said.

For "E," the situation is especially difficult as he brought his family with him to Germany to study. Now that the ministry of education in Iraq has cut his grant, it's nearly impossible for "E" to cover the cost to extend the residence permits of his family members in Germany.

"Some people are surprised when I tell them that I am a graduate student and that I live on my own funds," he told DW.

Refugee crisis

Iraqi students in Germany not only have to deal with the implications of the financial crisis at home, but the refugee crisis as well. Renting an apartment in the country is especially difficult.

"I've been looking for an apartment here for months with no luck," another anonymous Iraqi student, "A," told DW. "I can't even get an appointment with a landlord because they see my Arab name and think I'm a refugee."

Usually in Germany to get an apartment, potential renters must contact a landlord and provide basic information, such as their name and occupation. On this basis, landlords can decide whether or not to proceed.

Christina Polian is working on an informational project for refugees in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. "The large number of migrants in Germany is making it more difficult to find housing for both Germans and refugees," she told DW.  She added, however, that finding housing for foreigners has always been a problem, even before the refugee crisis.

"E" came Germany after studying medicine at the University of Mosul and had worked as a doctor on paid study leave in the eastern city of Magdeburg. This experience was required for him to get his board certification, but he faced problems along the way.

"When I treated patients in Germany, many thought I was a refugee, even though I'm a doctor assisting them in the hospital," he said. He added that some Germans look at Iraqis all as refugees and think that they only cause problems.

"It got to the point that some patients refuse treatment from me and request someone German," he told DW.

Deutschland Asylbewerber in Gießen (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Roessler)

Asylum seekers in Germany often have difficulty finding an apartment

Polian said there has been an escalation in racial tensions in recent years due to the refugee issue and this has affected not only refugees, but foreigners in general.

In contrast, some Iraqi students in Germany mention that there has been no negative impact on them due to the refugee issue. Another anonymous Iraqi student, "M," said that there are many integration workshops for refugees at German universities and some of the participants are not refugees, but foreign students.

"I do not agree that the refugee issue has affected my life negatively," he told DW. "On the contrary, it had a positive effect. I have had the chance to take part in many seminars to integrate new foreigners and refugees to Germany."