Iranian student from Ukraine: I thought I was being treated like Ukrainian refugees |

With the wave of refugees from Ukraine, students from third countries also came to Hesse. Many highly qualified. But the lack of skilled workers or not: most of them hardly get a chance to continue their studies.

Sonia Forati

Mary* wanted a life of her choice. A life where you don’t have to wear a headscarf. Where she can choose her profession. She does not have to ask her husband’s permission if she wants to travel.

But Maryam grew up in Iran, in a traditional family who could not and did not want to make her dream of studying medicine possible. So she decided to leave her country at her own expense. She was allowed to work as an English teacher until she could save enough money. In August 2019, she went to Ukraine “because of the affordable cost of living,” she said.

Tuition-funded medical studies

The 25-year-old learned Russian for a year as well as Ukrainian. Then she began studying her dreams, which she funded as an English teacher. At the beginning of the war she wanted to stay: “I built my life there. This was my plan A. There was no Plan B, back to Iran.” Only when Russian tanks overran the outskirts of Kyiv did her partner persuade her to escape. The first to reach Lviv near the Polish border.

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“There was no plan B.”
Mariam Mariam

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When the bombs fell here too, the couple headed to Frankfurt am Main via Frankfurt/Oder because her partner’s cousin lives there. Now they both live in Wettenberg (Giessen) and would like to continue studying or at least work. But unlike refugees with Ukrainian citizenship, they have to fight to be allowed to stay in Germany at all.

About 2,600 third-country nationals in the state of Hesse

Mary and her partner are third-country nationals, that is, people who do not have a Ukrainian passport and live there for work or study. About 2,600 of them are registered in the state of Hesse, as announced by the Ministry of the Interior at the request of the hour (as of September 11).

Those refugees without a Ukrainian passport were allowed to live in Germany until August 31 with the help of a transitional regulation without a visa and without a residence permit. But since September 1, the following applies to these people: Anyone who has stayed in Germany for more than 90 days and does not have a residence permit after leaving the country must or can be deported.

Intensive German courses for Ukrainians only

To get such a residence permit, Mariam would have to study, for example, which she would like to do. But for this, she had to do an expensive intensive course to prepare for her studies, which is paid only by Ukrainian students. On the other hand, she should be able to prove she can fund her studies – but says she lost everything by escaping.

You also need a good knowledge of the German language in order to find a vocational training – another option for staying in Germany. In turn, she is currently allowed to perform an hourly course in an adult education center. But this could end soon.

The immigration office in the relevant district of Giessen suggested that Mariam apply for asylum, she said. But if she does, she will be very restricted until the end of the process, such as her access to German language courses and integration. She is also not allowed to work, and she also has to move to asylum housing. She is currently allowed to live in an apartment with her partner.

When asked, the district said there was no “direct application” to submit an asylum application from the Aliens Authority. If concerns are presented that meet the requirements of the asylum law, people will be advised and referred to the Federal Ministry of Immigration and Refugees (BAMF) to apply for asylum.

Misunderstanding of unequal treatment

Mary has many question marks, and she has long been acquainted with the German bureaucracy. “I thought I was being treated like a Ukrainian refugee. I was there regularly as a student.” Because it was impossible for her to return to Iran, she applied for the same protection status (see background information at the end of the article) that Ukrainian refugees easily obtain. However, she had to explain in detail why her country of origin was not permanently safe for her.

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“The bombs did not choose their targets on the basis of nationality.”
Mariam Mariam

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Jana Hollander of Wettenberg hilft asks “If justification is not sufficient to obtain the same status as Ukrainian refugees, how is that supposed to suffice to obtain asylum?” In addition to Mary, she takes care of many other refugees in a similarly insecure situation. She does not understand that refugees with Ukrainian passports receive preferential treatment in this country. “The bombs didn’t choose their targets on the basis of nationality either,” Mariam says.

Regulations are working poorly

What makes it “so crazy” is that the immigration authorities apparently don’t make a unified decision on this issue either. Acquaintances from Iran who also fled Ukraine had no problem getting a temporary residence permit, the so-called fictitious certificate, they could work with. You have been denied it. It’s not legal, says Timo Scherenberg, managing director of the Refugee Council in Hesse.

Theoretically, it evaluates the regulations for third-country nationals favorably. But in practice, they don’t work, only because immigration authorities are completely overwhelmed at the moment and extensive checks are now supposed to make sure their countries of origin are safe. Otherwise, the BAMF is generally responsible for this.

Time extension request

Meanwhile, several refugee initiatives in Hesse County report a lot of confusion and unclear perspectives when asked by HR. “There are some refugees who have been able to pay for German courses in private and have already secured a place at university, others have had to leave the country immediately, and others are in the asylum process, so we have hired lawyers,” says Bettina Tersnik of the Hesse refugee center.

The Refugee Council calls for the issuance of a fake certificate for those affected – for temporary and legal residence. Managing Director Scherenberg says further support such as university start-ups and adequate scholarships are also necessary.

‘want to stay in healthcare’

The prospective Dr. Maryam now wants to try to get an internship year through a vocational training center or training in nursing. “I definitely want to stay in health care.”

But she is feeling increasingly desperate. She worked in Ukraine, paid for everything herself, and had the prospect of getting a job in the hospital. And now in Germany? “I don’t want much,” she says. “I want protection, I want to deal with a painful escape and I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.”

More information

legal status

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for refugees from third countries, paragraph 24 of the Residence Act applies to applications for a residence permit, just as it does for people with a Ukrainian passport. If a third-country national makes such an application, a procedure must always be initiated and at least a mock certificate issued for the examination period will.

While Ukrainians generally receive a two-year residence permit including a work permit and the right to social assistance, third-country nationals only obtain a residence permit under Article 24 of the Residence Act if they are legal and not only temporary in Ukraine at the start of the war and if they cannot return safely to their home countries for the long term. Those who can safely return home are only allowed to stay for study purposes if they meet the entry requirements and “in particular if their livelihoods are secured” through their income or financing with the assistance of third parties, for example through a declaration of commitment or a scholarship.

The Ministry of the Interior of the state of Hesse has announced upon request that for people who cannot do so, no public statement can be made. An individual examination is necessary. And: “If people at the Aliens Registration Office file cases that already meet the requirements of Section 13 AsylG, they must be referred to the BAMF for asylum.”

The Ministry of the Interior in the state of Hesse rejects the non-bureaucratic solution as decided by Hamburg and Berlin. Both cities give all third-country nationals from Ukraine up to twelve months to stay legally in Germany and possibly to meet study or training requirements.

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* Maryam’s real name is known to the editors. Since there would be serious issues if her parents or other relatives knew about her western lifestyle, we have changed her name in this post.

More information

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