I fled with dignity. I kept my head high with the conviction that I am of no less value than anyone else. A refugee is a survivor, not a burden.
Ibrahim, 26 years old from the city of Idlib, had heard that Stockholm is in the forefront for startups in the IT sector. As a programmer fleeing the war in Syria, he chose to go to Sweden.
My name is Ibrahim. I'm from the city of Idlib. I was born in 1989, and I dreamed of becoming a super hero as a child. I think we all are shaped by people we meet and live amongst, and by the situations we overcome. My mother and father have been incredibly important to me my whole life. I understand the difficulties they've been through. The sacrifices they've made to give me chances and opportunities in life that they never had.
Just before the war, I finished a two-year university degree in software development, at the university of Aleppo. After that, I studied visual effects, animation, and game design at home. I've spent hundreds of hours on my own to improve my skills.
My original plan was to study another two years at university to get my bachelor's degree. But the war ended all such plans. I was called up for military service without respite, even though I was a student. From that point on, life was dangerous. You would hear the fighter jets above, and worry about the road blocks in the streets. Your only consolation in those moments was your own hope and prayers. I lived in terror and anxiety.
Imagine being a young college student whose education is interrupted for four years, because your school area is destroyed either by the Assad regime, or Isis. Imagine being that student, and having to leave your country behind you in search for safer grounds. I fled with dignity. I kept my head high with the conviction that I am of no less value than anyone else. A refugee is a survivor, not a burden.
I went to Turkey and traveled on to Greece. That was the worst part of the whole journey, crossing the Aegean Sea. The fear we saw in the eyes of the women and children. But we made it, and the feeling of putting my feet to the ground after the trip was on of the better parts of the journey.
Other phases were difficult as well, like all the waiting, the queuing, and having to sleep on the ground in Serbia and Austria. In those moments, I kept thinking that if I can master the art of patience, I can manage anything.
We chose Sweden because my brother was already there. We wanted to reunite with him after the war had ripped us apart. But there were other reasons to go to Sweden as well. It's one of the most developed countries in the world. Additionally, Stockholm is one of the brightest stars in the world of startup-cities for IT companies. I wanted to be a part of that.
When I arrived in Sweden in October 2015 I was exhausted. At the same time, I was incredibly happy to meet my brother. I hadn't seen him in two years. But there was pain in the reunion. We thought of our father that had died about a year earlier. We hadn't seen him for four years. We weren't even able to attend his funeral.
How come some refugees get the decision after a short period of time, while others have to wait for over a year?
Sweden lives up to my expectations fairly well. It's a country with a government that respects individual rights and freedom of speech. And its people accept different cultures. I was, however, shocked by the bureaucracy, and especially the Swedish Migration Agency's completely random handling of asylum requests. How come some refugees get the decision after a short period of time, while others have to wait for over a year?
You're often told that the administrator has a lot to deal with, the same explanation as the one motivating the new asylum law. The new law affects cases retroactively. Hence, there are people that applied for asylum before the law was even up for discussion, that are now affected by it. That felt like a cold shower. It's contrary to principles as equality and justice for all people in society. Some feel discriminated, like they've been treated unequally.
I'm now living in an asylum accommodation in Sundsvall. I miss the neighborhood where I grew up in Syria, my childhood friends, my fellow students. I miss our yard, its garden and the olive trees. I spent my summers under those trees.
Both Swedes and people new to Sweden have to cooperate in order for Sweden to succeed with the integration process. The government being one part, the asylum seekers the other. Asylum seekers ought to be able to learn a craft or continue with their studies, and be able to learn Swedish from the start. Leaving them by themselves, up to a year and a half, is not a good thing. You end being like a prisoner in the asylum accommodation, in a very isolated environment.
I worry about the future though. Especially due to the one-sided image that is portrayed of refugees in the media.
The newly arrived people have to stay positive and keep away from the solitude and the isolation. One should try to make use of the long waiting period to learn something new. For instance, I've used my time waiting improving my programming skills. That's a very sought out skill in Sweden. I would like to keep studying that and get a grade. That would improve my chances of finding a job in that industry.
I worry about the future though. Especially due to the one-sided image that is portrayed of refugees in the media. That we only got here for the sake of money, or that we're terrorists. I'm also worried about the effect of the new asylum law on people.
There's a saying that your home is where your heart is. If Syria becomes safe again, I will return. That's where I come from, and the country to which I belong. But the more time I spend in Sweden, the more friends, opportunities and love will be here. Then I'll have two home countries. Departing from either place will be hard, because they both have a special meaning to me.