Syrian who fled to Europe in dinghy runs for seat in Germany's parliament

Tareq Alaows wants to help improve the living conditions of refugees

Tareq Alaows, who is running to become a lawmaker at the German parliament Bundestag speaks on a cell phone, during an interview with the Associated Press in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Tareq Alaows fled the civil war in Syria in 2015, crossed the Mediterranean on a flimsy rubber boat and tracked up the Balkans, like over a million migrants looking for a save haven in Germany. Five years on, the 31-year-old Syrian has received asylum, speaks fluent German, has a job, applied for citizenship and launched his campaign to run for federal elections in Germany on Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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A man who fled Syria in a rubber dinghy five years ago is standing for the German parliament.

Tareq Alaows crossed the Mediterranean Sea, trekked through the Balkans and arrived in Germany after fleeing the civil war in his homeland.

Since then, the 31-year-old learnt German, found a job and has set his sights on a seat in parliament at September's election.

"I am running for national parliament as the first refugee from Syria," he said at a rally in support of asylum seekers outside the Reichstag in Berlin.

“I want to give a voice to refugees and migrants in Germany and fight for a diverse and fair society for all.”

Mr Alaows joined the Green Party last year and is running as a candidate in the Oberhausen-Dinslaken constituency of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Tareq Alaows, who is running to become a lawmaker at the German parliament Bundestag arrives for a demonstration against the deportation of refugees at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. Tareq Alaows fled the civil war in Syria in 2015, crossed the Mediterranean on a flimsy rubber boat and tracked up the Balkans, like over a million migrants looking for a save haven in Germany. Five years on, the 31-year-old Syrian has received asylum, speaks fluent German, has a job, applied for citizenship and launched his campaign to run for federal elections in Germany on Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

In Syria, Mr Alaows, then a law student at the University of Aleppo, took part in peaceful protests against President Bashar Al Assad's government.

He also volunteered for the Red Crescent during the civil war and helped to register people who were displaced by fighting and sought refuge within Syria.

When he graduated in 2015, Mr Alaows faced conscription but he decided to escape to "a place when I can live in safety and with dignity".

After his arrival in Dortmund in September 2015 he became politically active when faced with a system that was overwhelmed by more than a million migrants who arrived that year.

Crammed into a gym with 60 others, “Where nobody could sleep at night if just one child was crying," he helped to organise protests against the conditions.

He now works as a legal counsellor for asylum seekers at an NGO in Berlin and splits his time between the capital  and Oberhausen.

“I really want to help improve the living conditions of refugees in Germany,” he said.

“It's not OK that they are lingering on the outer borders of the European Union in precarious conditions, drown in the Mediterranean and have to live in huge camps in Germany - all while European interior ministers are getting together to find ways how to keep them out or deport them.”

By the end of 2020, there were 818,460 Syrians living in Germany.

Most of them had not  applied for German citizenship.

Mr Alaows is one of the first to have met the requirements of a citizenship applicant and he is confident of approval before the election on September 26.

About 21.2 million of Germany's 83 million people have migrant roots. Primarily they are from Turkey, the Balkan states, Poland, and the former Soviet republics.

Arrivals from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq account for about 1.8 million.

People of non-German backgrounds continue to be under-represented in many sectors of society, including politics and parliament.

Of the 709 politicians who took office in the last federal election in 2017, 58, or 8.2 per cent, had migrant roots, according to the Mediendienst Integration group that follows migrant issues in Germany.

"Tareq is a candidate who advocates social justice and equality for all human beings as well as inclusive politics," said Beate Stock-Schroer, a Greens spokeswoman in Oberhausen-Dinslaken.

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