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Syrian Migrant Gets Settled In Germany After Tough Journey

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's check back in with one of those million people who've made the journey to Europe this year. Last summer in Turkey, I met a Syrian man named Ahmad Akkad waiting to make the risky boat crossing to Greece.

AHMAD AKKAD: Tell me, what are the options? Go back to Syria? OK, we're going to die. Stay here; we're going to die (laughter). So this the only option we have.

SHAPIRO: Today, we gave him a call.

AKKAD: Hello.

SHAPIRO: Hello. This is Ari.

AKKAD: Hi. This is Ahmad. How are you?

SHAPIRO: I'm great. It is so good to hear your voice after all these months.

We reached him on Skype in Germany, the ultimate destination for many migrants. He arrived in the country in September and is now in the town of Furstenberg north of Berlin.

AKKAD: I got my visa here - like, a three years residency visa.

SHAPIRO: So you're allowed to stay for at least three years.

AKKAD: Yeah, (unintelligible), yeah. And I start my language courses, my German language courses.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about your life in Germany.

AKKAD: I'm living with a family in Furstenberg. I'm looking for an apartment.

SHAPIRO: Are they a German family or a Syrian family?

AKKAD: No, a German family.

SHAPIRO: A German family took you in as sort of a roommate?

AKKAD: Yeah. They are awesome. They took me and two other guys also, Syrians as well. We cook Syrian food sometimes. They cook German food, and we enjoy our discussions (unintelligible).

SHAPIRO: And do they speak Arabic? Do they speak English? Do you talk to them in German? How do you communicate?

AKKAD: They speak perfect English, actually. And I speak a little German, and I'm trying to teach them, like, little Arabic so that they speak little Arabic.

SHAPIRO: What kind of a reaction have you had from German people who know that you have arrived from Syria? You are one of these many refugees who's made this journey. How have people responded?

AKKAD: They want to know what's happening in Syria. Is what we're seeing in the news - is it real? They don't imagine, like, there's something like that happening, Ari. I was in a shop - coffee shop. One guy just told me, go back to your country and fight. I told him, thank you, and he went away. I went outside from the shop, and there's, like, a big guy running kind of me - he came, just saying, you are a nice guy; don't listen to him. You're good.

SHAPIRO: Both extremes.

AKKAD: Yeah five-minute difference between these two people.

SHAPIRO: When you and I met and you were in Turkey about to make this journey across the Mediterranean, you had not told your family that you were going to try to get to Europe.

AKKAD: (Laughter) Yes. You still remember that.

SHAPIRO: I do. So what did your parents say when they found out?

AKKAD: Actually, they were shocked, to be honest with you. They were shocked. I called them when I arrived. I told them, hello, I am in Germany now.

SHAPIRO: And what did they say?

AKKAD: How? When? (Laughter) But now they feel it's OK. They think it's better. Now I can work. I have three-years residency visa, and I can, like, start a new life now.

SHAPIRO: Are your parents still in Syria?

AKKAD: Yes, my parents - my father, mother and little brother are in Syria.

SHAPIRO: And do you worry about their safety?

AKKAD: Yeah, sure. It's, like, every day, I talk to them, call them just to check everything is OK.

SHAPIRO: If we check in with you one year from now, what do you hope you'll be able to tell us then?

AKKAD: Hopefully I'm going to be, like - have started my master's degree, having, like, a job, even if it's a part-time job, and getting my apartment and hope my family going to be beside me.

SHAPIRO: Ahmad Akkad is a structural engineer from Syria getting settled in Germany. Thank you for talking with us, and happy New Year.

AKKAD: Thank you, Ari - to you, too. Happy New Year and merry Christmas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.