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Germany: Syrians, as fellow refugees, victim of black work

Features | 2019-02-10 17:02:00
Germany: Syrians, as fellow refugees, victim of black work
German laws consider working outside the legal framework "without a contract" as a crime punishable by a fine of up to 5 thousand Euros, and a double fine of the immediate deportation from the country if the worker is foreign, as well as the difficulty of transferring residence from asylum To permanent residence or to acquire citizenship in the event that the worker was one of those who obtained refugee status in the country.

Earlier, German media had estimated that about 30 percent of the 1.1 million asylum-seekers who arrived in the country in 2015 were working illegally and were of different nationalities.

"When life overwhelms you, there is no more time for you to think about your rights as a human being" this is how the Syrian young Rami (a pseudonym) start the interview with Zaman al-Wasl. 

He told us about his experience in the illegal labor market in Germany, or so-called "black", pointing out that it can be considered a modern kind of slavery.

Rami, a 23-year-old describes his experience as one of the harshest he ever lived.  “Homesickness is hard but the feeling that you lost the rest of your humanity by years of war and homelessness”.  He said. “So you start feel like a machine and your only concern is filling the pockets of the employer by more money”.

He pointed out that working in these fields is surrounded by various risks and violations.

 No Rights

According to Rami, the first day at work is the journey where human rights ends and slavery begins. The first condition of the job admission is that the employee isn’t responsible for any injury and any illness that may occurred during the day.

 "these illegal jobs are often in restaurants and the construction field, which means that the worker is always under the risk of injury by boiled oil or a stone falling over the head, especially that all these jobs are not under the occupational safety standards and the working hours often extend to 12 hours a day without any right to rest” he said.

"I was one of those who suffered a work injury. In my last job, I worked in a Syrian restaurant in my town in the northern Rhine district of West Germany. After weeks, my Hands became very sensitive, so I was expelled without any rights. Even though I was injured due to work, not to mention the pain and symptoms of illness that emerged on the result of effort of long hours” he added.

According to Rami, the violations against workers are not only about the harsh and inhumane working conditions but also workers are not often taking their salaries.

“Many workers didn’t take their salaries because employees think that they’re very weak and can’t accuse them, which encourages them not to pay the wages. It is the biggest violation. Imagine that after a whole month of working under these harsh conditions you didn’t get paid. It’s a psychological pain” he said.

  Low Wages

Moaz (a pseudonym), 30, is one among those who have experienced the same experience with the same circumstances.

 “When you talk about this topic, you talk about hundreds of cases, all of us working in harsh conditions” he said. “In the absence of the law, the employers' interest is to increase profits and wealth and became careless about the safety, health and rights of workers. In addition to the low wages, which do not exceed 3 Euros per hour in most cases from 9 Euros per hour (according to German law). It makes us really like slaves or forced labor”.

Moaz and Rami did not only insist on the extent violations, but also on the cases of the monument. Moaz pointed out that he was also one of the monument victims, because the employer refused to grant him the rest of his dues due to a dispute. 

Needs overcome convictions

"The government provides us with the financial assistance we need, but our needs us Syrians exceeds the 
governmental financial assistance" said Rami.

"I arrived in Germany three years ago, after a trip that made me spend all the money I had saved and I borrowed. Especially that the flight cost about 6,000 Euros at the time. So, I become without money" he said. “I went to learn the language in preparation for studying in the university, but slowly life is harder and the creditors demanded their money. As well as the desire for marriage that needed more money. So I decided to work in black."

“I tried to find a legal job after finishing the language, but I faced several difficulties. The most important of these jobs is that the employment companies that deduct a percentage of the salary for several months, which is often in accordance with the minimum wage of € 1200 after tax and insurance. The person himself without any additional financial savings, it’s noteworthy that legal work means that the refugee will lose the governmental assistance’ he continued.

Moaz added additional reasons to what Rami said about the commitment of a large number of refugees to help their families who living in the refugee camps in neighboring countries. 

"Many Syrians have families living inside Syria or in refugee camps, especially with the increasing number of secondary protection workers and therefore they are forced to help their families, wondering how one would ignore the situation of his family or his wife or children” he said.


 Rami presented his point of view on how to limit black labor and exploitation of the needy refugees. “the phenomenon is old In Germany and the most successful way is to be encouraged to stay away from illegal work, for example through the exemption of refugees during the first two years of tax, or to maintain housing assistance for two additional years, for example, if the refugee to find work” he said.

In the same context, Mo'az considered that commuting the penalty for the worker who entered the illegal labor market may also help to motivate him to file a complaint against anyone who exploits the refugees.

Zaman Al Wasl
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