A couple of years ago, Moschka Mohammadi was unable to read or write. Now, at 11, the young Afghan refugee is fluent in German, seamlessly translating between German and Dari with her parents at their dinner table as she arranges a visit to the orthodontist and the delivery of a new bed for her two siblings.
Back in Afghanistan, Mohammadi had attended just one day of school — in a room hidden from the Taliban — when fighting broke out in their village.
Her family first fled to Kabul before embarking on the long trek to Germany, with a hand-painted Quran her only physical reminder of home.
Mohammadi’s family is one of just under a million refugees that have taken refuge in Germany since 2015 under German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy.
As unprecedented numbers of migrants began to pour into Europe, Merkel asked each German state to accept a quota of asylum seekers.
Since that call, many cities and towns have taken in more refugees than required, with varying degrees of success.
Two years on, CNN visited Altena and Bautzen — two German towns that took in more than the required quota of refugees to see how Merkel’s policy has fared.
‘A win-win situation’
Altena, an industrial west German town, was facing an economic downturn after its ironworks closed. Jobs were lost, businesses shut down, and families abandoned their homes. The population dropped by more than 10%.
The mayor was looking for a way to give the town a boost when Merkel made her appeal in 2015.
“First, we wanted to help. There was a human reason to take them,” Altena’s mayor Andreas Hollstein explained.
“But the second reason was a win-win situation. We thought, ‘Okay, we need new people in Altena. We need new neighbors. And this will help us invest in the future.’”
The town took in in 400 refugees, and set up a program to match them with volunteer mentors that would help navigate German culture and its notoriously bureaucratic paperwork.
Read more at MyInforms.