Two recent reports by German news show Panorama and STRG_F shed light on a rather unusual phenomena that has developed over the past several months: legal Syrian refugees in Germany are fleeing Europe illegally back into Turkey in increasing numbers.
According to the report, some of them are set out on even longer journeys all the way back to war ridden Syria. The reasoning behind their decision being, for one, the heavily restrictive family reunion regulations set on refugee families, and, despite government subsidies, unsatisfactory financial conditions. In an interview on STRG_F, two Syrian refugees, Hassan and Bassil voice their concerns and displeasure with their current conditions.
“Germany gave me many things, a house, a job, but how can I live without my family and my wife?” Hassan, told the reporters from STRG_F on the night before he crossed the Evros River between Greece and Turkey. Hassan had been living in Germany for three years, ultimately losing hope in being joined by his wife.
“I feel like I lost 3 years of my life. My dream was to stay here and get married, but family reunion here is extremely difficult,” said Bassil, who also fled the turmoil at home to Germany in 2015.
Ironically enough, the route back to Turkey is the same one thousands of Syrian refugees took three years ago, only in the opposite direction. The journey begins with a flight to the Greek port city of Thessaloniki, where many infamous smugglers offer their precarious transport services across the river border for a negotiable €200. As a platform for communication between refugees and smugglers, who commonly just so happen to be Syrian refugees themselves, several Facebook groups under the name of “هجرة عكسية” (Reverse Immigration) are being used.
Owing to the heavy military presence on both the Greek and the Turkish banks of the Evros, the crossings must take place at night. In the same compacted Zodiacs they came in, the refugees cross back to Turkey where their lives are once again threatened by the cold, strong currents of high waters.
In May 2016, Germany suspended family reunions for temporary refugees, supposedly only until the current May 2018. Although family reunion is a given right as per the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, most applications take months to approve and many get rejected.
In his comment on the issue, the UNHCR Ambassador in Germany Dominik Bartsch, told Panorama that “Reverse Immigration” might have been going on for longer than we know, and that it is impossible to quantify the exact number of such cases. According to an article by Deutsche Welle, The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees claims that around 4,000 refugees have left the country without notification in 2017, but the true number is likely to be higher.
However, not all Syrian refugees are keen on returning to their homeland. Indeed, Syrian refugee Samh Arb who has been in Germany for more than 2 years, explains to Egyptian Streets that although circumstances can be hard, the idea of leaving Europe, particularly Germany, is not a popular one.
”Personally, even if the war in Syria ended, I would not go back in any way. Most of the people here who have started their careers, or education don’t think of going back ever. It’s possible that families which failed at reuniting go back but for those who have found a way: never!’’ says Arb.
He also added that refugees’ laws were, indeed, becoming more restrictive as well as general negative portrayal of refugees in the media. He reiterated, nonetheless, that many were living well, especially children and teenagers who have access to better education. Arb also mentioned that many refugees had freedom in Germany, particularly homosexuals and women
Among other privileges, refugees in Germany are provided with housing, health insurance, monthly allowance and German language classes. This is commonly described by right-wing politicians as “overly generous.” Some argue that the monthly allowance of a refugee family sometimes exceeds that of an average-earning German one.
The German pro-immigration organization “Pro Asyl”, on its official website, estimates that 1,713 incidents of violence against refugees took place in 2017 nationwide. This number includes twenty-three incendiary attacks and other forms physical and verbal hate crimes which has influenced the decision of many Syrians to flee Germany.