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And let's hear now about those who do make it through all the hazards. They reach Germany, the favored destination for many Syrian refugees, and once they arrive, they face new obstacles. That's what NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson discovered in the city of Nuremberg.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Germany may appear welcoming to refugees who are coming here these days, but in reality, the government is pretty picky about who gets to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).
NELSON: At least half don't get the green light, including this group of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran who set up a protest tent in downtown Nuremberg to draw attention. They say they fled war and persecution, but their claims for asylum were rejected, in part because where they come from doesn't top the list of countries Berlin considers at war or oppressive. They've ended up trapped here, unable to work or move out of refugee centers. Nor can they go back to the countries from where they came. One is Mohammed Hosseiny, who was 30 and came here from Tehran more than three years ago. He converted from Islam to Christianity, which is forbidden under Iranian law.
MOHAMMED HOSSEINY: (Foreign language spoken).
NELSON: Hosseiny says a German judge who recently reviewed his case acknowledged that he faced a death sentence in Iran for converting. Still, the court rejected his asylum claim. Hosseiny asks, if he knows I'm going to die, why won't he accept me as a refugee in this country? Fellow protester Jan Ali says he's also in danger.
JAN ALI: (Foreign language spoken).
NELSON: The 22-year-old is a member of Afghanistan Oppressed Hazara minority and hails from a Taliban-rife province. He says he, his mother and two younger siblings fled to Iran after their oldest brother disappeared on the way to work. Jan Ali says they were in danger of being deported back to Afghanistan by Iranian authorities, so they sought asylum in Germany five and a half years ago. So far, the German government has refused to grant them residency. That's left Jan Ali and his relatives among the 115,000 asylum seekers here who have a temporary status called duldung, which literally means toleration. They can't be deported with that status, along Jan Ali says he can't find work because employers don't want to hire someone who could be gone three months from now.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).
NELSON: As a result, the family can't afford to move out of their 15-by-10-foot room in a group home in Nuremberg. They share a bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities with dozens of other asylum seekers.
ALI: (Speaking German).
NELSON: Jan Ali says in German, which he is slowly learning, it's like living in a jail cell, but at least a person in jail knows how long his sentence is going to be. Alexander Thal, who is spokesman for the Bavarian Refugee Council, sympathizes with the young Afghan.
ALEXANDER THAL: (Speaking German).
NELSON: Thal says the asylum review and appeals process here needs to be streamlined so it takes no more than two or three years, especially at a time when the government is being overwhelmed by refugees.
THAL: (Speaking German).
NELSON: He says being stuck in the legal limbo takes a steep psychological toll on refugees, especially for those living in group homes like Jan Ali. Thal blames the government for failing to prepare for the surge of refugees, which began years ago. At the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which is based in Nuremberg, chief of staff Kathrin Hirseland says they are struggling to cope with the skyrocketing numbers of asylum seekers, compounded by the hundreds of thousands who are here in search of jobs rather than sanctuary.
KATHRIN HIRSELAND: They're here because they want better opportunities for their family. They want a job. They're looking for better financial situation because the situation in the Western Balkan countries is not easy. There's a lot of unemployment, so we understand why the people are coming, but they have no grounds for asylum or refugee protection.
NELSON: She says her agency is opening four new processing centers, hiring a thousand more people and tweaking the requirements to speed up the case review of the more than 800,000 asylum seekers arriving in Germany this year. But that won't affect the tens of thousands of others who are languishing in Germany's drawn out appeals process. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Nuremberg.
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