Germany. Wilhelm and Brian host Inas, a refugee from Syria, in Berlin. This portrait is part of the No Stranger Place series, which portrays locals and refugees living together
Wilhelm, Brian and Inas, a refugee from Syria, met through a chance encounter on a train just four days after Inas arrived in Germany. Ten days later, Inas moved in with the couple of 25 years, in November 2015.
Inas was making his way back to Berlin after going to visit a friend from Syria. Unsure whether it was the right train, he asked Wilhelm and Brian, sat nearby. With the help of Google Translate on their phones, the three struck up a conversation and then exchanged numbers.
Inas didn’t yet know anybody in the city and was staying in an emergency shelter. “We were in contact through Whatsapp every day – morning, lunchtime, evening,” says Inas. Soon thereafter he was moved to a gym-turned-refugee-shelter, where he shared the hall with 200 people. He says there were no mattresses on the beds, exacerbating the pain in his back from a slipped disc injury, and he had terrible problems sleeping. When Brian and Wilhelm visited him they told him he’d be welcome to stay at theirs for a few days.
During his registration interview Inas was asked if he had friends or relatives in Berlin, he texted Brain to ask if he could put down their names.
“When he asked whether he could say that we were friends,” says Wilhelm, “we said ‘of course, you can give them our address, get the post sent here and even stay with us for a few days at the beginning.’ We told him to give the authorities our number in case they had any questions, because at the time we struggled to understand each other.”
Inas was then given a document, his first permit to stay in Germany, valid for three months. On the third page it stated: “the owner of this document is obliged to live at the following initial reception institution,” followed by Brian and Wilhelm’s address.
“It came as quite a surprise to us of course,” says Brian. “At first we were completely unsure of all the implications, three months is a long time. But we talked with our friends and decided: let’s do it!”