It’s no easy feat making your way to Germany from war-torn Syria. By the end of this year, Germany might be taking in close to 800,000 refugees. But an even greater challenge lies ahead: finding a way to assimilate the huge population of Syrian refugees into German life.
But a center in Berlin is already working on a solution. Developed by Haus Leo, a shared accommodation home in Berlin for refugee families that aims to “ensure asylum-seekers their dignity and allow them to find their way here and to try something new,” a group of refugees have pooled their resources together to create “Arriving in Berlin," an interactive map of resources across the city.
The map points to over 250 venues for counseling, healthcare, German-language lessons, accommodation, legal assistance, public libraries, and police stations. The website includes a color-coded map of Berlin, and was developed and researched by Hamidullah Ehrari, Mohammad Yari, Farhad Ramazanali, and Alhadi Aldebs, four refugees living in the house.
The idea for a map formed first because it was a visual tool. “[Maps] can be produced by many people and combined together to tell stories about complex relationships,” the project website explains. “Because maps are never finished and only tell part of a story that can constantly be expanded upon. Because power exists in space, struggle exists in space, and we exist in space. Because we cannot know where we are going if we do not know where we are from.”
The group is working to develop the map as an app for smartphones.
The mass exodus of Syrian refugees has been called by Amnesty International “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.” Over 190,000 civilians have been killed in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. Nearly 12 million have fled their homes: a quarter of that number is now in Europe.
According to a United Nations report, 2014 has seen more people uprooted from their homes since “detailed record-keeping began.”
Under Angela Merkel’s insistence, Germany has been instrumental in providing for refugees – and not just providing homes. A group of refugees have recently taken up cycling lessons in Berlin. Other groups are offering free German and English lessons to refugees.
Still, questions of how to handle the growing number of refugees continues to plague many European nations.
"We cannot flip the switch in one go – we must proceed step by step," Merkel said on Tuesday.