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    Syrian refugee finally gets help to find a job through a mentorship program in Belgium | 05/2017

    Julian A. Jacobs, 16 May 2017

    Karam Najjar is a 28-year-old Syrian, who fled his country of birth and arrived in Belgium in November 2014, after spending a month on the Mediterranean sea on his way to Italy. From Italy, he traveled to Belgium overland, often walking and being exposed to the harsh realities and dangers of crossing borders.

    ‘I traveled to Belgium because my sister was living in Brussels, whom I have not seen in years,’ he said. Karam spent the mandatory six months in a refugee camp whilst his reasoning for asylum was being investigated by the Belgium authorities. Once he received his papers, he had to find a place to live in, a job and needed to get to know the language. Once he was finally settled, his wife joined him through a family reunion visa process. Since then they had a child born in Belgium.

    Karam was a qualified chief officer in the maritime industry in Syria but to the war, work became impossible to keep or find. He trained in Egypt for seven years and spent almost the entire 2014 looking for work before fleeing Syria. Once he was in Belgium he started looking for work, but he was not successful. The only place that he could have a better chance rot get work was in Antwerp. ‘It had a port and my interest was in maritime. But I could not find work here either. I struggled with the language and was told I would probably stand a better chance if I could speak Dutch,’ he said. This and the fact that he needed to register his qualification made him start learning to speak in Dutch quickly. Authentication of his qualifications was and is a long process in Belgium and almost all refugees and migrants experience this.

    ‘I was unlucky in my life so I feel for all the unlucky people and I try as far as possible to make them be happy a bit.’ Karam then enrolled in Dutch classes and today he is tutoring Arabic-speaking refugees and migrants how to speak in Dutch.

    He got to know about Duo for a Job through his teacher who taught him Dutch and when he qualified as a possible mentee, he met Francois. ‘Francois has helped me to rework my resume and he has given me tips on how to deal with job interviews. I have a greater chance to find a job because of this program at Duo for a Job,’ he said.

    ‘I am very thankful for Belgium because it has given me a chance to be with my family again. My wife, my two sisters, and parents. I am trying to proof that I am not a refugee who escaped from a war and want to stay here and make money. I am a strong man who still has much power to give.’

    ‘I feel that I do not have hope for my country of birth. I am finally settled here and several state agencies have helped me with money to pay for my child’s tuition and this help from Duo for a Job has restored my confidence in humanity.’ Karam is now a staunch advocate of this program and has already informed his friends about it.

    [Karam on the day of the interview (5/11/2017) went to Brussels where he would finally meet his father of not seeing him for three years. His other sister, and mother have already joined them and all of them will be waiting to welcome their father. ‘I am thrilled to see my father after so many years. We have been worried about this safety. It is a great day.’] 

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