Overcrowded refugee centers, exasperating bureaucracy, unfamiliar German food, lack of jobs and a rising sense of antipathy from Germans who fear their country is being overrun by Muslims are forcing some refugees to return home.
After seven months of frustration, Gazwan Abdulhasen Abdulla has given up on his dreams of a better life in Europe. He has scraped together his last $325 for the flight to Iraq and he is not alone.
Homesick and eager to be back with his wife and four small children in Basra, Abdulla gave up his refugee status as he boarded a crowded Iraqi Airways flight from Berlin’s Tegel Airport to Baghdad that would whisk him and 150 other disheartened refugees back home.
After more than 1.1 million refugees from troubled lands such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have trudged into Germany over the last 13 months, a small but mounting number are also heading home.
While refugees say they are happy to trade a cold, heartless and lonely life in one of Europe’s richest countries for the violence, insecurity and poverty back home, they have realised, rather belatedly, smugglers had sold them a pack of lies about big houses and well-paying jobs that they would find in Germany.
“I wanted to live in peace with my family as far away from war as possible,” said Abdulla, a 37-year-old who worked as a truck driver in Iraq. “But what I’ve seen in Europe is not what I dreamed of. It’s not what [the smugglers] told me it would be.
“The food was terrible, so disgusting that not even animals should be fed on it. They made us sleep in these cold, empty buildings and when someone said they were sick, they just ignored us. You could feel it everywhere that Germans looked down at us like we were bums. I miss my family and can’t wait to get home.”
In the last three months, the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin has issued more than 1,500 one-way travel documents for Iraqi refugees giving up on Germany.
“There are a lot of Iraqis going home, but more and more Syrians are also coming in here to buy airplane tickets to fly back home,” said Alaa Hadrous, 24, who came to Germany from Iraq as a child, and now operates the Golf Reisen travel office in Berlin.
“They see the Arabic writing on my storefront window and come in saying they want to go home,” he said. “There are a lot of really sad stories.”
Hadrous says he has noticed an increase late last year in the number of refugees coming to him for one-way tickets home.
After just buying a one-way ticket to Lebanon, a Syrian man, Abed who lived in Germany for four weeks said, “I miss my family a lot. I would rather take a chance and risk dying with them in Syria than being in Germany without them.”
The government’s office for migration and refugees reported 37,220 refugees obtained government financial aid to return to their home countries in 2015, including those who had little chance of receiving asylum.
This article originally appeared on latimes