German media has estimated that about 30 percent of the 1.1 million asylum-seekers who arrived in the country in 2015 have been working illegally.
“When life overwhelms you, there is no more time for you to think about your rights as a human being,” this is how the Syrian young Rami (a pseudonym) starts an interview with Zaman al-Wasl.
He told us about his experience on the illegal labor market in Germany, or the so-called “black”, pointing out that it could be considered modern day slavery.
Rami, a 23-year-old, describes his experience as one of the harshest he ever lived. “The homesickness is hard but the feeling that you’ve lost the rest of your humanity by years of war and homelessness is worst”. He said, “So you start feel like a machine and your only concern is filling the pockets of the employer with more money”.
He pointed out that, to work in these fields is to work surrounded by risks and violations.
According to Rami, the first day at work is when human rights ends and slavery begins. The first condition of the job admission is that the employer isn’t responsible for any injury or any illness that may befall the employee during the day.
“These illegal jobs are often in restaurants or the construction industry, which means that the worker is always at risk of injury, whether by boiling oil or a stone falling on their head, especially since all these jobs are not covered by occupational safety standards and the working hours often extend to 12 hours a day, without any right to rest,” he said.
“I was one of those who suffered a workplace injury. In my last job, I worked in a Syrian restaurant in a town in the northern Rhine district of western Germany. After a few weeks, my hands became very sensitive, so I was expelled without any rights. I received no help, despite the fact that I was injured at work, and suffered physical from the long hours that I was forced to work”he added.
According to Rami, the violations against workers are not only taking the form of harsh and inhumane working conditions, but many workers are also denied the right to collect salaries.
“Many workers didn’t receive their salaries because employees think that they’re very weak and won’t stand up for themselves, which encourages the employer not to pay the wages. It is the biggest violation. Imagine working in harsh conditions for a whole month and then not getting paid. The psychological pain is extreme,” he said.
Moaz (a pseudonym), 30, is one among those who have experienced this.
“When you talk about this topic, you’re talking about hundreds of cases, all of us working in harsh conditions” he said. “With an absence of any legal rights, the employers’ interest is to increase their profits and wealth and become careless about the safety, health and rights of workers. In addition to the low wages, which do not exceed three Euros per hour in most cases, which is far from the nine Euros per hour required by German law; we are living as slaves or forced laborers.”
Rami says he, “tried to find a legal job after learning the language, but I faced several difficulties. The most important of which is that employment companies deduct a percentage of the salary for several months, which is often in accordance with the minimum wage of 1,200 Euros, after tax and insurance.”
Many Syrians have families living inside Syria or in refugee camps, especially with the increasing number of secondary protection workers and therefore they are forced to help their families.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.