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Fleeing alone to Germany

Wolfgang Dick / sgbDecember 25, 2015

Obaid from Afghanistan tells us he's 15 - and has arrived in Germany by himself. He's one of an estimated 60,000 unaccompanied minor migrants who came here in 2015.

Weihnachtsserie Flüchtlingskinder Landsberg Schild Willkommen Obaid Deutschland
Image: DW/W.Dick

The sign on his door is important to Obaid. He attached it carefully. It says in Persian: "Khosh amadid" - "Welcome." Every visitor should feel equally at home. Today Obaid is expecting a visitor, and he's been looking forward to it all day.

He's even planning to skip playing his favorite sport, football. Obaid has played for almost a year in the football club. That's thanks to Markus Wierl, his supervisor in the living group at the SOS Children's Village in Hagenheim, Bavaria.

Wierl worked for 15 years as a trained geriatric nurse; he has been working with children for several years. He says football is the best way to integrate people. "Suddenly you're no longer an anonymous refugee. Now it's Obaid, Jaffa or Ali. Suddenly you're a person," Wierl said.

In a country that makes Internet headlines again and again by burning refugee homes and racist slogans, often reminding Obaid of his terrible past in Iran, he quickly found friends through football.

Weihnachtsserie Flüchtlingskinder Landsberg Fußballkicker kickern
Football is Obaid's big passionImage: DW/W.Dick

Obaid was born in Kabul, in Afghanistan. But because his parents could not care for him, they brought him to an uncle in Iran when he was four months old. He lived there until he fled at the age of fifteen.

But he did not have a happy childhood in the capital, Tehran. When he was seven, he began to work with his uncle in the poppy fields in order to survive. After that, he worked on the street: "I sold chewing gum and shoes." Often, he took odd jobs. But instead of payment, he was beaten and sent away again without money.

Wierl knows this from Obaid's retellings over many long evenings. Obaid was not officially registered with the authorities in Iran and did not have papers, making him illegal there. "People like that are without any rights in Iran. When they ask to be paid they often hear, 'I'm calling the police!' One had all his teeth knocked out."

Another world

Whenever the past catches up with Obaid and the memory becomes unbearable, he goes up to the attic in the home. There is a football table, and Wierl plays as many rounds of table football as it takes to calm Obaid down. "Now I have no more fear. Everything is all right," Obaid says.

That Obaid was able to escape from Iran at all is thanks to his sister. She received a valuable chain as a wedding present. She sold it, the most beautiful thing she had ever possessed, to give her brother the money to leave. Obaid lost almost everything. Again and again, he had to pay smugglers who shamelessly exploited his age, his shyness and his inexperience. In Turkey. In Greece. In Macedonia. In Serbia, Hungary and Austria.

Weihnachtsserie Flüchtlingskinder Landsberg Markus Wierl
Markus WierlImage: DW/W.Dick

Once in Germany, Obaid was willing to take on any job quickly. Any at all. The main thing for him was money. He didn't know that any work for foreigners is strictly regulated in Germany.

When he was admitted to the SOS Children's Village in Hagenheim, his supervisor tried to explain to him that a three-year course was more important than a fast job helping out. Many young, unaccompanied refugees are sent ahead from their families to supply the folks back home with money. "There is pressure from the family, who say, 'Hello, you're now in paradise.'"

Christmas can come

Obaid's supervisor's arguments convinced him. He now wants to do an apprenticeship in carpentry. His friend and roommate Ali, from Kabul, has opted for an apprenticeship as a tailor. He already has considerable skills in the field. His instructors told him that what he learned sewing in Kabul was equivalent to the skills and knowledge in the third year of training in Germany. Ali keeps practicing, with donated sewing machines.

Ali is satisfied - but like many unaccompanied minor refugees, he came here with misconceptions. Instead of the 2000 euros he heard about, there is actually a monthly allowance of only 45 euros.

Obaid and Ali found out quickly that this does not mean great riches. Even a short call to Iran costs at least ten euros - Obaid cannot reach his sister via Skype. But the money is worth it to stay in touch. His biggest dream is to be able to bring his sister to Germany.

Weihnachtsserie Flüchtlingskinder Landsberg Nähmaschine Obaid
Obaid with his friend AliImage: DW/W.Dick

Even so, a small dream is fulfilled this evening for Obaid. His visitor is here. Outside, it's already dark. The clear sky reveals a canopy of stars above the home. On this December evening, shooting stars dart across the sky. They appear suddenly with their glowing trails, and then disappear again.

And under that clear starry sky, a young girl is standing next to a small car in front of the home. It is Obaid's girlfriend. And it is a very special Christmas for him.

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