The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?


Part 7: The Doctor's Advice: Learn German and Be Patient

Amin Ballouz, 57, heals refugees and the elderly in the town of Schwedt on the German-Polish border.

Why are you still homesick, Dr. Ballouz?

The doctor stands in his office and cries. He holds a small, eight-month-old Syrian girl in his arms who he must vaccinate against tetanus, diphtheria and polio. He pricks her with his needle; now she's crying too. The parents, a young couple from Madaya, Syria, are telling the story of their bombed-out city, where children are currently starving. Then they ask the doctor how they're supposed to live here among the strangers who look as gray and closed off as the Communist-era, East German prefab homes they live in?

The doctor's answer is always the same: learn German and be patient. While he offers his advice, his thoughts wander to his own flight 40 years ago. Ballouz was only 17 when he escaped the civil war in his native Beirut on his father's orders. There was no "Willkommenskultur," or welcoming culture, like there is today. And he didn't have anybody here waiting for him. He was lonelier than the Syrian family sitting in his office now. They kiss his hand, though he's not particularly fond of the gesture. For them, the doctor is a welcome consolation in a foreign land -- and the reverse is true as well.

Dr. Amin Ballouz is from Lebanon. His mother was Muslim, his father Christian. He studied in what was then East Germany and has worked as a doctor across the globe. For the last six years, he has been a general practitioner in the town of Schwedt. It's a place where people only ever move away from, never to. Since the collapse of East Germany, the population has nearly halved. Schwedt's future prospects are grim.

The people from the surrounding region, known as the Uckermark, hold the doctor in high regard. He's "good at giving shots" and has a sense of humor, they say. But for asylum-seekers, Ballouz is much more than that. He is a translator, a judge and arbitrator, a counselor and a therapist. He says that for him, the few hundred refugees in the area are like a sweet medicine against homesickness. They help him to reconcile his own unhappy youth in Germany.

Discuss this issue with other readers!
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spiegelerin 02/21/2016
1. HOW do you integrate them?
I just saw a photo of Africans squatting on a boat waiting to come over and another load of them waiting in Libya. (Kaddafi said, watch what happens when they just hop over to Europe.) They are going to take an integration course and live well in hyper independent Germany? I don't think so. They are adults with different norms. When it comes to women, when it comes to how to cure AIDS (sleeping with virgins) when it comes to noise in the streets...the cultures will not harmoniously merge and European culture will have to deal with becoming less woman friendly, louder and so on...I don't see this happening at all well, but apparently "mixed" societies like in France and Belgium work 'well enough." But more are coming and I don't see harmony, at least not for people with European norms. Will this one get published? It's MY opinion, not that of SPON.
artvent 02/21/2016
2. Muslim Refugees
I'm sorry for these people, but you must realize they will live in their own ghettos and because of their religion will never assimilate - they will not contribute to your society because they are mostly uneducated and they will not respect their host nation. Just look at France if you want to see the problem. Most of all I feel sorry for the German people and what will happen to Germany in the years to come after this invasion. You will lose your identity.
bartelbe 02/21/2016
3. it won't work
You want to know what integration looks like? Integration is mixed families, it is muslim girls dating, sleeping with, marrying and having families with German men. That isn't going to happen, because if a muslim girl amoung these "refugees" decided to date a German man she would be dishonouring her family and would be punish. Let that sink in, your new arrivals reguard you with such contempt that if one of their female relatives dated one of your young men, it would be seen as a form of dishonour. If it was the other way round you would condemn that attitude as racist, but no doubt it will be swept under the carpet just like the events in Cologne. Sex and relationships reveals the truth about how people feel. Your new arrivals are not interested in integration, and they do not respect your culture. That is the truth and no amount of PC censorship will change that.
nsmith 02/22/2016
4. Integration Doesn't Happen Overnight...
Germany is going to find out that Integration is not as easy as "Wir Schaffen Das!" The United States of America was built on that same principle over 300 years ago, and we're still having problems with it.
spiegelerin 02/24/2016
5. The next task is to integrate them...
Yes, one integration course and they will learn European values of not grabbing women, of not thinking that women alone have no honor...One integration course and they won't be the desperate people who don't respect barriers, who don't jump trains. No, if You don't give them money and take care of their needs, they are going to get angry. Just take care of them, at any cost.
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