The Video Series That Helps Refugees Integrate Into Germany

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WATCH The Video Series That Helps Refugees Integrate into Germany

Constantin Schreiber never thought his five-minute, weekly series for refugees would get the attention of so many people.

"I knew it would get some attention, but that it would have triggered such positive and negative reaction, I never would have envisioned that," said Schreiber, a journalist for German broadcast network RTL.

Marhaba, which means welcome in Arabic, is the name of the Arabic language series. Watching mainstream coverage of the refugee crisis that he thought didn't capture what it was like to make a home in Germany, where hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have arrived in one year alone, Schreiber decided he would use his language skills to develop his own show.

He interviews immigrants and Germans alike for the series, delving into the food, cultural norms and history of Germany. Schreiber has received requests to talk about child care, dating norms and the country's immigration process.

He tries to dispel myths, too, about Germans: "Not all of us eat meat and drink lots of beer."

The program has received an overwhelmingly positive response from Syrians and people from the Middle East, but he estimates half of the Germans who watch are not supportive. He says he has received threats for the work he was doing.

After the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks and the subsequent political backlash against open door policies for refugees, Schreiber addressed hostility toward immigrants in several episodes of Marhaba.

Within hours his postings, he says, the videos garnered thousands of views not only from Syrians already in Germany but also from people still in the Middle East who were preparing for the trip.

Among the thousands of people who’ve seen Marhaba is Marah Saker, 16. She's from Damascus, Syria, and moved to a suburb of Berlin a year ago. The teen and her younger brother, Iyad, had to learn German quickly and get accustomed to a new life with their mother, Ghouson Saker, who had lived in Germany for five years.

The Sakers did not make the same treacherous journey that Ghouson Saker’s brother, the children's uncle and so many others continue to make, but they fled the destruction of places and people who were dear to them. Iyad said he lost five friends when a bomb hit his school.

Marah, an aspiring journalist, says she misses her extended family and wants to return to Syria to rebuild her country. When she saw Schreiber's show, she sent him a message asking about internship opportunities. After reading her essays and articles, he was impressed. "She looked like she really wanted it," he said.

So for the eighth episode of Marhaba, Schreiber and Marah co-hosted the show. The shy teen slowly opened up and filmed an episode about the immigration process and what it was like to live in Berlin, a year later.

Marhaba has received so much attention that RTL has decided to air a 40-minute special in mid-December. Schreiber continues to produce an episode each week.