German doctor with refugee physicians
German doctor with refugee physicians

Some Syrian refugees who worked as doctors back home have suceeded to enter the job market in Germany and can practice medicine as before. However, this is not an easy process. What are the main challenges and how can they be overcome?

Statistics in Germany from both official and unofficial sources show that there is a large shortage of medical staff in Germany and that the problem will be intensified over the coming years. "The shortage will increase in the coming years," Alexander Jäkel, an official at the German Medical Association confirmed to InfoMigrants. An article by the Berliner Zeitung newspaper interviewed multiple sources, with some saying that the shortage was limited to 15,000 doctors and others estimating it could be as high as 27,000.

According to the statistics of the German "Union of Federal Physicians," which is a union of all registered doctor's associations in the German states, there are 2895 Syrian doctors currently in Germany. This number does not include those who also have German citizenship or those who have not yet obtained authorization to work as a physician in Germany. The number also doesn't reveal whether all of these Syrian doctors have been living in Germany a long time or have come to the country recently as refugees. But nevertheless, Jäkel stressed that the "the number of Syrian doctors in Germany has increased in the last few years very significantly due to the influx of asylum seekers."

First steps

After receiving asylum, the refugee doctors could then look for work in their field or go on to pursue advanced studies. Before, the refugees still have to prove they have a degree and accreditation to pursue medicine from Syria, which can prove to be a challenge. They will have to deal with the Syrian government to procure these official documents. Some Syrian doctors say that the "the Syrian regime refuses to grant them their documents because they are seen as opposed to the government."

After they have their documents, they will have to get their accreditation amended to practice medicine in Germany. About a year ago a problem arose where German embassies had difficulties ratifying Syrian diplomas because there were so many frauds. However Alexander Jäkel confirmed that Syrian doctors enjoy a "very good" reputation in Germany.


There's a shortage of medical personnel in Germany

Bureaucracy everywhere

According to Jäkel, the thing that Syrian refugee doctors complained the most about when coming to Germany was bureaucracy. "Germany is a country that has an affinity for bureaucracy ," he said. Syrian refugee doctors have difficulties getting authorization to practice medicine in Germany. One difference is that Syria is a very centralized country when it comes to bureaucratic procedures. Germany, on the other hand, is a federal state with different procedures and requirements to practice medicine that vary from state to state. Some refugee doctors complain about how "quickly laws and bureaucratic procedures can change."

Foreign doctors wishing to practice in Germany have to pass the high intermediate B2 level German exam and then pass another exam that tests them on their medical knowledge. "This allows them to communicate with their patients and prove they are integrated into the German medical system," Jäkel said.

One refugee doctor Ahmed (a pseudonym) told Infomigrants that he "feared he would not pass the medical exam in Germany." He, along with 70 other Syrians, studied medicine in Ukraine. Due to the differences between education in Ukraine and Germany he believes that he will have to pursue another year of medical training.


Some Syrian doctors are networking with each other and other Arab doctors in Germany by organizing meetings and creating groups on social media. The "Refugee Doctors in Germany" group, for example, has 2,000 participants and includes doctors from other Arab nationalities. The doctors exchange tips on how to prepare for medical exams, asylum procedures, laws and other aspects of being a refugee doctor in Germany.

27-year old Firas AlShikh is the admin of the "Refugees Doctors in Germany" Facebook group and he told the InfoMigrants that it " the Syrian Doctors in Germany Facebook group serves as a way to coordinate meetings between Arab doctors in Germany in general, not just refugees or Syrians." This group has 31,000 members.


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