A Day at the Fair — A Syrian’s Journey to Employment in Germany

Yermi Brenner
9 min readFeb 21, 2019
180 companies, business associations, educational institutions and civil society organizations had stands in the job fair for refugees at Estrel Hotel (credit: Yermi Brenner)

The job fair for refugees and migrants that took place January 28 in Berlin was a very important day for Hassan Al Hashem, a Syrian who fled to Germany three years ago and is currently unemployed.

Hassan owned and worked in an Aleppo jewelry store for 15 years — “living in abundance,” he said — until the Syrian war took everything away, including his life savings. ”When the war began I had to leave my city; at first to another city, and then several years later I had to leave my home country,” Hassan told me three days before the job fair.

He arrived in Germany at the end of 2015, lived two years and five months in refugee accommodation facilities, and in the past 7 months has been renting a room in the home of a German family home on the outskirts of Berlin. He has been devoting most of his time to studying German, and he craves to find a stable source of income. “I need the feeling that I am independent, that I am standing with my feet on the ground, not just sitting here and receiving money from [German authorities],” he said.

Hassan Al Hashem at the job fair in Estrel Hotel (credit: Yermi Brenner)

On the day of the job fair, I met the 39-year old Hassan outside the Estrel Hotel, which hosted this event for the fourth consecutive year. He was clean shaved, dressed in a casual grey sweater and dark jeans, and seemed excited as we waited in the long line to enter. The people around us were chatting in Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi; some had clearly dressed up for the event. About 3800 refugees and migrants took part in the fair, which was organized by Germany’s Federal Employment Agency and the Berlin Employment Agency.

Events like this job fair are part the German government’s efforts to tackle two major challenges it is currently facing: successfully integrating nearly a million refugees, and filling the estimated 1.6 million vacancies available in specific sectors of the local labor market like health care, tourism, logistics and construction. From the German government’s perspective, guiding refugees like Hassan into jobs in these specific sectors is a win-win solution.

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Yermi Brenner

Articles, personal essays, and data-driven analysis on how emigration, immigration, and displacement are impacting societies and individuals.