Arabs of Germany extends web lifeline to migrants

Sunday 12/03/2017
Talal Mando (L) works with writer Mohanad Al-Naheel on his website in Berlin, on January 19th. (AP)

Berlin - Migrants navigating a new language, unfa­miliar cultural con­ventions and Ger­many’s multitude of rules and regulations are finding help online in their adoptive coun­try courtesy of one of their own.

The website — which translates to Arabs of Ger­many — was founded a year ago by Syrian IT expert Talal Mando. The site contains a range of information, including news about Germany, feature stories explaining German culture and crucial job offers for newcomers.

“No one came to Germany to sit around,” Mando, who was among the 890,000 migrants who arrived in Germany in 2015, said of the site’s success. “The people want to work and learn new things.”

Mando said the idea for the site came after the soft-spoken 28-year-old reached Germany and started looking for guidance about how to apply for asylum, learn German and find work.

He quickly realised that most written information was available only in German or English — not a problem for him as a fluent Eng­lish speaker but a major barrier for many Syrians and other migrants who spoke only Arabic.

“That’s when I got this idea to make a website for Arab people who are in Germany,” Mando said in the living room of his Berlin apartment, which doubles as headquarters for the free website.

Since the website’s launch in De­cember 2015, it has received more than 1.1 million visits and more than 4 million page clicks, nearly all from users inside Germany, Google Ana­lytics data indicate.

Many German organisations have reached out to help migrants get set­tled and some television networks offer Arabic language programming. Mando said he thinks arabalmanya. com has resonated particularly well with newly arrived Syrians because he and others working on the site have shared their experience.

He has five people writing for the website, all Syrian migrants working for free after a small startup grant from a local organisation ran out. Mando, who works as a freelance web designer, estimates he has put about $5,800 of his own money into the project.

The volunteer staff has written more than 1,400 posts, many of them job listings they have translat­ed into Arabic. They answer about 50 e-mails a day seeking advice on where to find a doctor, where to learn German, how to register for school, and what documents to bring and clothing to wear to job in­terviews.

“I do it because people need it. It’s that simple,” he said. “People need information and jobs here in Germany and we provide it.” (The Associated Press)