Seeking Asylum: A life in limbo
At the ago of 21, whilst walking through the streets of Tehran, Iran, my cousin, Merhnaz, was told by a complete stranger to un-tuck her trousers from her boots. When she refused the man pulled her into his doorway and broke her arm for looking too western.
This sort of confrontation is not uncommon in Iran, and by this point Merhnaz had begun to consider her options. She could either stay, whereby, she would be likely to run into similar trouble again, or she could begin the process of leaving the country for good. Originally she had planned on going to Canada, but after some thought decided it was too far away from home and that she hardly knew anyone there. After this, Germany was the next best choice. With her best friend also having opted for this route, and family in England that could visit frequently, it seemed like a more practical solution.
As the years passed a plan began to formulate, she was to go to Germany and apply to study graphics at a university in Berlin. In order to apply for a student visa however, she had to be fluent in German and be under the age of 25. By this time she was 24 and only had a year left to learn to speak the language.
One year on she arrived in Germany able to speak the language proficiently enough to apply to university. Unfortunately, after an interview, Merhnaz and her friend were declined a place at the university. Regardless of this she knew she didn’t want to return to Iran so began the long process of applying for asylum. The German government had split up Merhnaz and her friend and moved her to Bremen for a short period of time before finally housing her in a home for people seeking asylum. This home is situated in a small town called Kamenz, located about half an hour outside of Dresden. Having spent a year there now, this is her story.
Kamenz is situated in the former eastern block of Germany, and although the building Merhnaz has been housed in looks like it is from the former soviet era, it was in fact, built a year ago. The building itself is more like a hostel, mainly housing people and families originally from the Middle East who are now seeking asylum. Some of the residences here have been waiting for asylum for up to 8 years.
In order to enter the building we have to hand in our passports at reception, and I hide my camera as not to grab any unwanted attention. Unfortunately this didn’t fool them upon my final return, and they took it away from me on my third and final day, and told me I could pick it up on my way out.
Merhnaz has decided to stop her pursuit of making a career out of graphics and decided to follow a more secure route of becoming a nurse, whilst attending school in Dresden learning advanced German. She has applied for several nursing apprenticeships in hospitals within the area, and whilst the hospital in Dresden wants to take her on, the hospital in Kamenz has declined her. Despite her best efforts to persuade the government to let her move to Dresden, which would make her life much easier, they keep declining her requests.