Kundinsikt The UNHCR Workshop

Creating work opportunities is probably the most important thing

The UNHCR Workshop


UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency): work to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home.

Mohammed Battha is a young man who comes from Syria. He participated both in the workshop and gave those who only spoke Arabic a voice when we visited a reception centre here in Stockholm. His journey to Sweden was long and hard, not so unlike other refugee’s. In this blog post he will talk about his life before and after the war and the insights he got from the UNHCR workshop.

It is a happy Mohammed who picks up the phone. He just got his asylum granted.

– I am so happy. I came to Sweden June 15 2015 and now I finally got my decision and I can stay and I now have a “personnummer”!

Mohammed is 23 years old, he comes from Syria near the boarders of Palestine and Jordan and we got in touch by the Facebook group What do you need help with today. I was looking for someone speaking Arabic and English that could help us talk to Arabic speaking refugees at the workshop. But Mohammed thought the workshop sounded so interesting that he wanted to be a participant as well.

Can you tell us something about yourself so we get to know you a bit more?

–  I live in Falkenberg a few kilometers outside Ullared. I have a very big family, about 4 000 relatives and I have an uncle and a cousin here in Sweden. Before the war I studied economic at the university.

Why did you want to come to Sweden?

– The war started and I did not see a future in Syria. My relatives said that it is easier to get a job in Germany, but that Sweden is a better country for starting a family. I was lucky that I made it to Sweden. It was hard and I had to cross several countries before I finally ended up in Sweden.

What was the hardest?

– I was so afraid that the police would catch me, especially in Hungary. I did not want to stay in Hungary, it is not a good country for refugees. The long walks were hard as well. One time we walked for seven days. My feet was hurting, but when we finally was about to cross the boarders we met policemen and dogs so we had to flee back into the woods and live in the forest. We had no food or water. I remember I was just laying on the ground and wanted to die. Luckily, a friend got hold of some water and after drinking some water I didn’t want to die anymore and continued. From Budapest we got lucky and could pay a lorry to take us to Germany. In Germany the police almost got me, but I ran away and took the train to Copenhagen. In Copenhagen I had a friend who picked me up and drove me to Sweden. My uncle lives in Ystad and he is a doctor so he took care of me and my feet that were in a bad condition. When my feet got better, Migrationsverket decided that I should move to Ullared. And here I am.

Mohammed does not think peace will come to Syria, at least not in the near future.

– Many have tried and failed so I am not that optimistic. That is why I want to make Sweden my new home. And even if ISIS is defeated it will probably be disputes between different powerful families about who is going to rule.

But even if Mohammed had reached his goal, Sweden, it was hard to adjust to the new country after his arrival.

– Everyone is so busy and you do not see any people. In the beginning I was wondering where are everyone? I am not shy, if I see people I have no problem talking to them but it is hard when you do not see anyone and the few ones you do see just rushes by before you have a chance to talk to them. When you live at a reception center all you do is waiting. I want to meet people, study, and work or have practice. Have a normal life.

Have you got to know any Swedish people?

– I started to get involved at the reception centre where I live and got to know the staff. I speak English, Arabic, are not shy and knows Arabic culture so I asked if they needed help. The manager didn’t speak Arabic so I started to help her and by helping her I got something to do and we became friends. Helping people was a good way to meet new people and I posted on Facebook if anyone needed help they could contact me. One woman asked me if I could walk her dog. I don’t like dogs, but the woman is really nice so we got to know each other. I have also helped her with the garden, chopping wood and in return she helps me with my Swedish and she made me a CV so I can look for a job or “praktik”.

What did you think about the workshop?

– It was great. Especially that we went to a reception center and talked to the refugees. I think they really appreciated that we listened to them and showed that we care even if there is a long way to make things better.

Are there any insights from the workshop that you would like to share?

– Of course. Here are four main insights from talking to refugees and from being a refugee myself:

  1. The reception centers should not be so far out. You want to meet Swedish people. If you live far out you will only meet other refugees. You will only speak Arabic or your native language and you will not learn Swedish.
  2.  It would be really good if you could travel in whole Sweden. The people we met did not even afford SL-card and they could not go anywhere.
  3. Why can’t we cook our own food? There are different nationalities living at the reception centers and we do not like the same food. If the refugees can make their own food, they would have something to do as well.
  4. Make us work. I want to do something! I do not want to sit and do nothing. Most of us are young and healthy; perhaps we can help older people or at least do something. And I think it is really important to help those with higher education to get to work as soon as possible. If they work, they will pay tax and that is good for everyone. I think creating work opportunities is probably the most important thing.

Mohammed Battha was interviewed by Emma Patel, Transformator Design.