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After long journey to Germany, refugees confront new challenge of integration

The United Nations this weekend said 80 percent of the migrants coming to Europe are from war-torn Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent refugees arriving in new countries face a challenge that will take much longer than the journey from their home countries: applying for asylum and integrating into a new home. NewsHour's Saskia de Melker reports on how one Syrian family is confronting these challenges after arriving in Germany.

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  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    When I first met Hameed and Ghoson Yakdi, their family was sleeping on the street near the Hungarian border with Austria, already a month into their journey across Europe.

    They left their besieged hometown of Aleppo, Syria, for Turkey. After days at sea to get to Greece, they traveled thousands of miles by land, often walking, to Austria, where they finally got seats on a bus to Vienna. Their timing was lucky. Two before Germany restricted entries from Austria, the Yakdis were met by Hameed's brother Mohammed, who already lived in Germany. He drove them the rest of the way to Munich.

    Now a week after their arrival, they are starting to get a taste of what they hope will become their new home.

  • HAMEED YAKDI:

    The way of living in the Middle East is different than that of Europe: the living conditions, family atmosphere, even the roads are different.

  • GHOSON YAKDI:

    I feel safer that we are all family here. One feels safe to meld into the German society.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    Like tens of thousands of other recent refugees, the Yakdis face a challenge that will take much longer than the journey from Syria — applying for asylum and integrating into German society.

    The Yakdis have an advantage — their extended family in Munich has taken them in. Hameed's brother, Mohammed, came to Germany about two-and-a-half years ago. And their cousin Ruaa came fifteen years ago, as a refugee from Sadaam Hussein's Iraq. Ruaa remembers the daunting challenge of being thrust into a different society.

  • RUAA ADNA SULAIMAN:

    It's not easy to leave everything back there. But when you settle down in another country, you find a job, you learn a language, you establish a family, and it becomes your home.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    Ruaa has mastered the German language so well that she now works as a translator. She was granted asylum and her three daughters were born and raised here in Germany.

  • RUAA ADNA SULAIMAN:

    You gain a lot of respect from the people here when you speak their own language.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    Do you feel accepted by Germany?

  • RUAA ADNA SULAIMAN:

    Not all the time. We have our difficulties here. Everybody has his own opinion. I cannot force someone to accept me.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    In recent years, there has been a rise in crimes against immigrants by neo-Nazis in Germany and in the first half of this year there were more than 200 attacks on refugee shelters.

    But the Germans I met said they welcomed new asylum seekers like the Yakdis, while also worrying about long term challenges and the potential for a backlash.

  • ROSINA GEIGER:

    One has to give it time. Prejudices are completely bad. However it plays out, it certainly won't be easy.

  • KORBY MAIER:

    I believe if many more people come, there will be a point when there's a revolt in German, but as long as it's only people who really need asylum, it's fine. I say, better 1000 refugees than 1 Nazi.

  • ZVONIMIR SOMEN:

    Yes, I think there certainly is a potential risk for Germany. That the extreme right-wing groups might get stronger. But nevertheless when one sees how much aid is offered to the refugees, then you see that there are certainly many people who are really good.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    Since arriving in 2013, Mohammed Yakdi says overall he has had a good experience in Germany. He's speaking German and has a job as a food delivery truck driver. But at times he can feel the prejudice.

  • MOHAMMED YAKDI:

    I have always always stress. I cannot feel this [is] my home. I need more time.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    For the two youngest members of the Yakdi family — three year old Adam and four year old Faten — assimilation should be easier and quicker. Like the children of all asylum seekers, German law requires they be enrolled in public school as soon as possible.

  • HAMEED YAKDI:

    Now, I don't think about me, about what I will do. I think about them, about what they will do in the future. I see the other children here, and they go to school, they study, and they have future.

  • SASKIA DE MELKER:

    But even as they try to become part of German society, the Yakdis want their children to know that they will always be Syrian.

  • GHOSON YAKDI:

    I will continue to be consistent reminding them that we are Syrians, there definitely will be part of them from the homeland that they will never forget. So when they grow up, they will live with the German society, but they will remain Syrians.

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