As Fears Mount In Germany, Syrian Refugees Grapple With Perceptions | KUOW News and Information

As Fears Mount In Germany, Syrian Refugees Grapple With Perceptions

Nov 21, 2015
Originally published on November 21, 2015 2:48 pm

The Paris attacks are sparking fears in Europe that the Islamic State is hiding its operatives among the tens of thousands of refugees pouring into the European Union each month.

In Berlin, those fears are also troubling Syrian refugees, who worry they may be kicked out of Europe.

Samar Alalaly, for one, rejects those concerns. The 30-year-old Syrian mother of three, who arrived in Germany six weeks ago, says they don't make sense. "We ran away from war," she says. "We didn't come to make war here."

Many Germans, including the authorities, aren't convinced that's true of everyone. Earlier this week, police arrested seven migrants outside of a jobs center near the western city of Aachen. Officials say they did so after an unnamed "witness" called to report that one of the migrants looked like Paris attack fugitive Salah Abdesalam.

Hours after the arrests, German Interior Minister Thomas DeMaiziere told reporters their investigation so far hadn't revealed any close ties between the detainees and Paris attackers. The migrants were later released with a formal apology by the Aachen police.

Nevertheless, German officials — including the interior minister — defend the extra scrutiny of migrants as the number of credible terror threats here grows.

And their profiling has been very public. For instance, on Saturday night at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, police patted down a half-dozen young Middle Eastern men they had rounded up in front of passersby. The young men, one of whom carried a skateboard, looked upset as they held their hands up in the air.

Fauzi Nagdali, a 21-year-old from the Syrian city of Homs, says such tactics are unfair. He arrived in Germany and was recently approved for asylum. He says that Syrians have undertaken a life-threatening journey to find a safe haven, only to be arrested. "That's not justice," Nagdali says.

Fellow Homs native Steve Aljundi is also defensive about Syrian refugees being put under a magnifying glass.

"Even the French prime minister, he said recently like these people who attacked, they are not new arrivals, they are not refugees," Aljundi says. "Like, he said: We host them, and they are one of our population."

Even so, Aljundi says that with the German government focused on ISIS, other dangerous Syrians who come to Germany may be slipping through the cracks.

"There are people from Hezbollah and from the [Assad] regime, Syrian regime — who were killing and torturing people — and they are living here as normal asylum-seekers."

In a tent for newcomers, Kholoud Daadi, 39, says it's frightening to know the terror group that was one of the main reasons her family fled Syria carried out attacks in Europe a week before she arrived in Germany.

God willing, she says, she and other refugees can convince German society that they are moral people who treasure peace and security as their hosts do.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Paris attacks have sparked fears in Europe that ISIS is hiding operatives among tens of thousands of refugees pouring into EU countries. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin that such fears trouble Syrian refugees who worry they may be kicked out of Europe.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Almost every asylum-seeker at this charity providing clothing and diapers reacts like Samar Alalaly does when asked whether ISIS may be using refugees as a cover to launch attacks.

SAMAR ALALALY: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: "No, no, that doesn't make sense," says this 30-year-old Syrian mother of three who arrived in Germany six weeks ago. Alalaly says, we ran away from war, not to make war here. Many Germans, including the authorities, aren't convinced that's true of everyone. Earlier this week, police arrested seven migrants outside of a job center near the western city of Aachen. Officials say they did so after an unnamed witness called to report that one of the migrants looked like Paris attack fugitive Salah Abdeslam.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THOMAS DE MAIZIERE: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: Hours after the arrest, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters the investigation hadn't revealed any close ties between the detainees and Paris attackers. The migrants were later released with a formal apology by the Aachen police. Nevertheless, German officials, including the interior minister, defend the extra scrutiny of migrants as the number of credible terror threats here grow. And their profiling is very public, like last night here at Alexanderplatz, where police patted down a half dozen young Middle Eastern men they had rounded up in front of passersby. The young men, one of them who carried his skateboard, looked upset as they held their hands up in the air. Back at the Berlin charity, Fauzi Nagdali disapproves of such tactics.

FAUZI NAGDALI: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: "It's very unfair," says the 21-year-old from the Syrian city of Homs. He arrived in Germany three months ago and was recently approved for asylum. Nagdali says, we come all this way on a life-threatening journey to find a safe haven and they arrest us? That's not justice. Fellow Homs native Steve Aljundi, who speaks English and volunteers at the charity, is also defensive about Syrian refugees here being put under a magnifying glass.

STEVE ALJUNDI: Even the French prime minister, he said recently, like, these people who attacked, they are not new arrivals. They are not refugees. Like, he said, we host them and they are one of our population. He said it. I'm not the one who said it.

NELSON: Even so, Aljundi says that with the German government focused on ISIS, other dangerous Syrians who come to Germany may be slipping through the cracks.

ALJUNDI: There's people from Hezbollah and from the regime - Syrian regime. They were, like, killing and torturing people. And they are living here as normal asylum-seekers.

NELSON: A short walk away in a tent for newcomers, 39-year-old Kholoud Daadi says it's frightening to know ISIS, which her family is fleeing from, carried out attacks in Europe a week before she arrived in Germany.

KHOLOUD DAADI: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: Daadi says, God willing, she and other refugees can convince German society that they are moral people who treasure peace and security as their hosts do. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.