Impressions of a day at the Munich railway station

On Saturday I was in Munich, at the railway station. Many thousands refugees had been announced. As soon as I got off the train, I noticed policemen. Everywhere policemen. And then I saw them, the refugees. They were held separate with a rope and only registered volunteers, police and them had permission to enter that area.


When I arrived there were around thirty refugees outside the arches. I asked what was going on inside the archway. “There they get water, food and a first medical check is carried out,” was the answer I was given.

I saw a policeman slapping a child by mistake. He just turned and the child was behind him. No reaction. I did not expect any reaction from the policeman. But I would have expected one from the child. But it was as if he was used to it. As if he cared about nothing.

I saw a very young child (maybe 2 years old) going bananas and shouting out loudly at seeing a dog. He wanted to step out the area and stroke the animal. The policeman immediately grabbed him and threw him back to the crowd. It was just a reaction to a dog. It was just a child.

I saw a mother sharing biscuits with her daughter, and taking one out of the daughter´s mouth. She was probably hungry. Otherwise why would you take your child´s food?

I saw a Syrian baby toddle toward me as I was offering a lollipop. The little girl could not open it. Maybe it was seeing it for the first time in her life. Her brother also had his difficulties and I offered to help him. As he had taken the paper in the mouth, he first cleaned the lollipop on his sweatshirt and then handed it over to me. He then nodded his head for thanking me.

I also saw volunteers spending their weekend helping the refugees. Actually, organisations are overwhelmed by people who are offering their time, money and material things. There has been a surprising solidarity wave in many parts of Germany. Munich and Bavaria belong to them. I have seen old people buying sweets and chocolates for Syrian, Egyptian, Pakistani and Afghan children as if they were their grandkids. I saw tons of water bottles, sweets, clothes and blankets waiting for being distributed. I saw children saying “Thank you” when given a sweet, people clapping their hands and welcoming refugees, wishing them good luck for their future.

I spoke with Khalid, a Syrian man who moved to Germany in 1982. He was waiting for his cousin. And he was also helping people, explaining them what was going on, what would happen in the coming days. “They are confused”, he told me, “they get diverse information and most of them do not speak nor understand English, so communication is very difficult.” I asked him if the refugees who were arriving there were the poorest ones, as I saw the majority with cellular phones, tablets and other technological tools. “No”, he answered, “the wealthiest ones have left the country years ago. These here are barely above the average. The poorest are still in Syria.” I also asked him what people expect from a life in Europe, or Germany. “Their expectations are very high”, Khalid stated, “they come here with the belief they will find a well- paid job. This is the first shock. The integration will also be difficult: European and Arabic mentalities are very different. So there might be many clashes during daily life. But first, they must understand how to make the first steps. This is why I am here today.”


Then I met Jaad, another Syrian guy who had reached Munich on Friday. “Now we are waiting for our train to Hamburg, where friends of ours live. There I will create a new life for my family, InshAllah. I have got an MBA and hope to find a job as soon as I have learned German.” They look exhausted. The kids are dirty, tired and hungry. “It was not possible for us to stay in Syria any more. The war will not stop in the next months and conditions are getting worse.” While telling me his story, his son, who was sitting on my lap, ate a muffin. A whole muffin. That’s what I call health!


Film Series: Days of Hope (2013)

Originally posted on Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet):

We are very pleased to announce the launch of GRAMNet and BEMIS brand new film series 2015-2016, around the theme of HIDDEN STORIES, which will begin this month on Wed Oct 14th at CCA, with the film…

Days of Hope directed by Ditte Haarløv Johnsen.

days of hope

That sea… It’s not a small thing. Everything happened on that boat, everything…’

Every year thousands of people from the African continent try to get to Europe. Leaving everything behind, they promise their loved ones that they’ll make it to the other side, that they’ll provide for them, that things will get better.

In ‘Days of Hope’ we meet Harouna, Thelma and Austin. Harouna has left his girlfriend and their newborn baby behind and is stuck halfway to Europe in the desert town of Nouadhibou, hoping for happiness. Thelma was left behind in Ghana as a child. Reunited with her mother in Denmark…

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The rape of Nepalese maids and the Saudi ‘Criminal Diplomat’

The recent reports of two Nepalese maids, raped and illegally confined by Saudi Arabian Diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor, clamour for justice and protection of migrant workers in India that are often subject to abuse and fraud.

The plight of Nepalese Migrant Workers

Punctuated with debilitating economy, millions of Nepalese travel to neighbouring countries like India, which has unrestricted entry for Nepalese nationals. In a bid to support their families, many unfortunate workers are often duped by human traffickers and land in unwanted circumstances. The dream selling of so-called unscrupulous agents begin to haunt these migrant workers that are stranded on the streets in a foreign country with nowhere to go while they often become ‘victims’ of violence and fraud. According to Nepalese Official data on average around two migrant workers die abroad each day with death toll topping 240 between January to April in 2014 alone.


In the newly discovered case of abuse of migrant workers, two Nepalese women were held at the luxurious residence of Saudi diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor in the city of Gurgaon near New Delhi for several months until a non-governmental organisation flagged the issue and filed a complaint against alleged rape and confinement. The police rescued the women from the residence and they were sent back to Nepal later. Meanwhile, the diplomat also left India with his family flying the flag of Saudi Arabia, I presume.

A case of diplomatic inviolability?

Why was diplomat not arrested against the crime which challenge women across the world and in India in particular where rape unfortunately occurs so very often? According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Article 41, the consular in the receiving State enjoys various perks and privileges as stated in the convention and the Article 41.1: ‘Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trail, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by competent judicial authority.’

Without doubt rape is a ‘grave crime’ which hurts women physically, mentally, socially, culturally and subsequently also economically. Therefore, it is necessary to protect and safeguard women in vulnerable conditions such as these Nepalese women who left their homes and families for a ‘better’ life in India. Being a foreigner in a hostile atmosphere even further puts you at the fringes of vulnerability.

The Nepalese Ambassador in New Delhi, Deep Upadhyay told reporters that the case should be pursued even if the diplomat had left the country. ‘The victims must get justice’ said Mr Upadhyay.

What churns my stomach most is the silence and denial of Saudi government against the case in question. The sudden ‘exit’ of its criminal diplomat coupled with Saudi government claim about the case being ‘baseless’ reeks of underhand ‘deal’ between Saudi Arabia and India which was also echoed by former Indian Secretary Maharaj Krishna who dubbed the departure of criminal diplomat as ‘solution arrived at through mutual consultation’.

 The victims must get justice

Diplomats are ambassadors of a state, a well sought after public service, they are an embodiment of trust, respect and honour in any receiving country. However, for the case in point, beyond the veneer of International convention and diplomatic inviolability lies the pernicious abuse of power and lust, preying at the weak and drawn out existences of these women who for better lives, left their country to feed and support their families back home. Unknown to the future perils in the foreign land, they among others are often hoodwinked, abused, confined, assaulted and often murdered by those who in their big cars flying the flag of their state kill them – like flies in the hands of wanton boys.

A rape is a rape is a rape is a rape! The dignity of women should be protected and the criminal should be prosecuted by the law of the land. The Saudi Government must take a stand and prosecute its criminal beyond the state politics since everyone should be equal before law regardless of a rank or hierarchy.  Equally India as a host nation must act responsibly and protect the rights of the migrant workers who help spin the economic wheel of their country and must provide them a safer atmosphere in a much needed dignified way.

Shahid Khan is the viceShahidkhan-chairperson of Global Minorities Allliance He can be reached on twitter @shahidshabaz