Frightened Syrians stuck in East Germany mull leaving
‘There are no jobs, no contact with locals’
One had a beer bottle flung at him on a train. Another was woken at midnight as three men holding wooden slats rang his doorbell. A third had her headscarf pulled off by a stranger in the street. A year after they arrived in Germany seeking refuge from war, some Syrians say they have experienced so much animosity that they are contemplating leaving.
The trouble is, they have landed in the eastern state of Saxony-a flashpoint zone home to the Islamophobic PEGIDA movement that has seen a spate of racist hate crimes. “It’s too scary here,” said Fares Kassas, victim of the train aggression. “The man threw the bottle just as the door was closing and the train left the station. There was nothing I could do,” said Kassas, who has obtained refugee status in Germany but is now contemplating leaving for Turkey, where his parents are living.
Mohammad Alkhodari, who spoke of a car that pulled up next to him with men preparing to beat him before he ran away, said he avoids going out after 6:00 pm. “I am so stressed that I have developed a stomach problem,” he said. In Saxony, the number of far-right crimes, including assaults against asylum seekers and arson at refugee homes, tripled to 784 last year compared with 235 in 2014.
Both Kassas and Alkhodari are in the town of Freital, scene of anti-migrant demonstrations a year ago. The area is linked to two neo-Nazi groups that plotted attacks against refugees but were dismantled by security forces last year. In a report last month taking stock of the quarter century since reunification, the government warned that growing xenophobia and right-wing extremism now threaten peace in eastern Germany. “Eastern states are bad states for refugees. It’s hard to find apartments. There are no jobs and no contact with locals,” said Alkhodari, a dental hygienist who desperately wants to move to western Germany. unwanted change affecting their lives. “There is a feeling of ‘leave us in peace, we’ve only just found our way after reunification and now we’re facing something new again,’” she said. Social media has also lifted the expression of hatred for foreigners to a “new level”, said refugee aid volunteer Marc Lalonde. “Before this social media explosion, people were probably racist but they kept it to themselves,” he said. Now they see that “they are not alone.”