Syrian refugee Bjeen Alhassan has been awarded Germany's 4th national integration prize. Alhassan, who came to Germany in 2014, offers digital language training and other support to female refugees via a Facebook group.
The digital language teaching and social work project "Lernen mit Bijin" ("learning with Bijin") has been awarded this year's national integration prize in Germany.
Syrian Bjeen Alhassan was awarded this year's prize on Monday, October 5 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany's Federal Chancellery. The prize is endowed with €10,000.
Launched by Alhassan in March, the Facebook group now has 300 members whom Alhassan supports with integration advice in Arabic, Kurdish, English and German.
The 28-year-old was jointly nominated by the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).
"When one can speak the country's language," Alhassan said in a video from the federal government, "they will automatically feel [at] home or feel good. That's the most important thing of all."
When she arrived in Germany six years ago, Alhassan said, she was in a similar position where she had to learn loads of things for herself. Fast foward a few years, and now, Alhassan has completed a Masters in Business Management and lives in Hamburg.
4th integration prize
Since 2017, Germany's national prize for integration honors exemplary integration work. The prize winner is held up as a role model for others in the hope that they will encourage others in their community to get involved in integration activities.
The decision to award Alhassan was made by a jury consisting of Berlin integration researcher Naika Foroutan, professional soccer player Sami Khedira, author Ahmad Mansour and Cologne's mayor Henriette Reker.
The chair of the jury is Frank-Jürgen Weise, former head of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The focus of this year's prize is "empowering women."
In 2018, the recipient was IsraAid Germany, an aid and integration initiative that offers psychological counseling for traumatized refugees.
Caution from TV journalist
On Monday, Shakuntala Banerjee, a prominent German TV journalist said while initiatives like the integration prize were "good ideas," they weren't enough alone to combat a steady increase in politically motivated crime from the right over the last few years.
According to Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, more than 22,000 right-wing criminal acts were registered in Germany last year, up from some 17,000 in 2014.
"The Chancellor awarding exemplary female migrants is worthy of praise," Banerjee wrote on the website of public broadcaster ZDF. "But in the end it's just a small stone in the big wall that politics and society need to erect against racism and right-wing extremism."
Banerjee also pointed out that only 8% of members of Parliament have a migrant background, far fewer than the 26% of the overall population.
With dpa, KNA