Example10 Example11 MCH LSE Refuge City ATH Refugee Info 003
Example13 Example14 Example15
Example16 Example17 Example18

Themes Example16

A collection of twelve stories highlighting the key emerging themes of the research from the experiences of both those that are 'new' to Europe and those that 'welcome' them.

How do you deal with the present when the past haunts you day in and day out? How do you make sense of the future when everything seems unclear and unstable, with moments of despair, loss and insecurity? All of the newcomers we met had to deal with the trauma of the past, of war and destitution and the dangers of migration, while simultaneously navigating their new environments, trying to get started again, so that there is — so that there can be — a future after all. Whatever their individual experiences, struggles and coping mechanisms have been, all of their stories are testimony to their incredible resilience, to the unbending will of human endurance and to moments of love, kindness and, indeed, of hope that can change a life even under the direst of circumstances.

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While some newcomers in all three cities immediately fell in love with their new environments — ‘we love the city,’ ‘this is where I want to stay’ or ‘we really feel at home in our flat’ — especially the younger ones seemed to attach their hope specifically to potential educational and professional opportunities, finding hope in the possibility of building a new life for themselves, or new skills with which to return. For most people, a hopeful vision of the future crucially hinges upon the well-being of their families.

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I started from scratch here, and it’s going better and better but ultimately, I want to finish my education, return to Ethiopia and make things better there. It’s because of politics that I had to leave my country and it’s through politics that I would like to change something. There’s a new and better president in Ethiopia now. I actually already booked tickets to go see him speak at a stadium in Frankfurt at the end of October.

(Sadu, Berlin)

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I want to learn English quickly so that I can go to university! I want to study medicine, maybe surgery. It's really tough but my grades in Iraq were on the right track.

(Ra’ed & family, London)

MCH LSE Digital Cityof Refuge Berlin Baynatna 02 Marcia Chandra
MCH LSE Digital Cityof Refuge Berlin Baynatna 03 Marcia Chandra

Baynatna was the result of frustration, desire and need. Being on the train, and seeing everyone around me reading a book in German or English, I felt like I had nothing. Arabic speaking communities have been in Berlin for over 30 years and yet there was no Arabic library, not even a proper bookshop. So we worked on creating a library where we could find them. Our first spot was in a communal space in Kreuzberg, one day a week, now we are in the Central Library! It’s been like this “lets do this” momentum that has kept going.

(Ali, Dana & Juan, Berlin)

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We came here with a lot of hope. We wanted a happy life, a good life, a life with a future. Safety and security. We don’t fear for our lives anymore, that’s something to note. My son is now in school, my children have access and rights to everything they need. Now we don’t have to worry about our daughter, Zahra. About what will happen to her when we’re no longer around to care for her anymore. She will be taken care of, our children have a future. That’s very important for us.

(Ra’ed & family, London)

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I do feel pride when I look at photos of 'Ola.' Unbelievable pride. I look at them and can’t believe I achieved what I did. In Syria, I was a female bound by certain religious and cultural norms. I am still bound by them but now I subject them to my own logic. I never did the transformation to challenge or defy a society or a culture, even though this is how it gets interpreted. I simply tried to feel like myself.

(Ali, Berlin)


It is this permanent state of suspension and insecurity that newcomers face that can even destabilise the most resilient. From not finding a job and struggling with education to not being able to reunite with family, newcomers often have to grapple with so many challenges at the same time that a hopeful future becomes ever more contingent and unsure. These experiences of pure hopelessness again ruthlessly show the horrific aftermaths of war, of forced migration and of hostile border regimes that again and again put people’s visions and hopes for the future to existential test.

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A family’s stay in our shelter is a single stop in a larger support process. They stay in the hostel for 6-12 months where they get a lot of support from us. Then they move to one of our social apartments, and after a few months, we start to encourage them to take another step towards self-sufficiency. We don’t always succeed — it depends on many factors and it’s difficult to talk about self-sufficiency when there is no employment. But we have some happy endings: the cleaner in our shelter stayed here in 2014 and now she’s our colleague. For me, success is when a former resident lets us know they got a job or they’ve settled in Sweden or Germany. I’m not saying it's a failure when this doesn’t happen. It depends on their lives, mobilities and the difficulties they might encounter.

(Yiannis, Athens)

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I have been working ever since I got my refugee status. In Liverpool, I just went around asking for a job and got one at a pizzeria. We were all foreigners working there, I don’t think an English person would do such a job. I worked a lot and they paid me very little, about 150 pounds per week, but it was better than staying at home doing nothing. And I learned how to make pizza! I’m still working as a kitchen porter now but only while I wait for my security guard license. I completed this security guard course three months ago in October; it was £400 but I feel it's an investment. It’s taking a long time to get the license because I had to show I had no criminal record for five years, but since I’ve only been here for two years, we had to go to a lawyer and do all this paperwork. It’s a nice job because you get to dress smart and wear a tie, and you have to keep in shape and stay healthy.

(Reza & Catherine, London)

MCH LSE Digital Cityof Refuge Anas Hamdi Eidbi Eid 16 Marcia Chandra

I dream of a day where I have the right of mobility across the globe. I also dream of being able to travel to Syria again, and to see my mother again. I am also very curious to visit places I am forbidden from. As a Syrian, most countries don’t want me. They think that if I visit I will stay as a refugee in their country. So even though Germany and Europe are big, when you don’t have the freedom of mobility you continue to feel like it is a cage.

(Anas & Muhamad, Berlin)

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I first came to The Unmentionables because one of my friends told me there were free showers. I've only been in Athens for five months but I found friends in this place, so I prefer to spend my time here. I especially like the art therapy class with Maria. When you’re busy drawing, you forget things.

Now I call this place 'our' centre because I found a space here for myself. After a while, the staff asked me if I wanted to volunteer to be a translator. So, it’s like... things are moving… step by step.

(Farid, Athens)

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Maybe in a way, it’s easier to talk to people who are far away, but after talking to them, I feel sad... I left my son with his mother in Turkey. He is ten years old now. If you have children, you can understand. My son is safe but the only thing is that because of the circumstances and the economic crisis in Turkey, they struggle financially. His mother and I divorced after I came here. It was really hard, being a refugee and having also to face divorce... I hope my mother and my son will be able to visit me soon. Just to visit, I cannot ask for more. There is no possibility for them to stay here. My plan is to live in Greece, but almost nothing in my life, here or anywhere, could be described as 'certain'. I do hope I can return to Turkey one day, but only if the regime and status quo changes. The whole of Turkey is like a prison right now and any attempt to go back there would mean at least a long term of imprisonment, if not death...

(Apo, Athens)

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Cities Example15

People MCH LSE Refuge City ATH Refugee Info 003