German bureaucracy was a nightmare for these Syrian refugees, so they built an app to do it for them
Bureaucrazy helps newcomers negotiate Germany’s intimidating paperwork requirements (AFP / File)
Navigating the forms and filings of German government bureaucracy is tricky enough if you’re a native speaker with a lifetime of experience in the country. So for newly arrived refugees, the maze of requirements can seem impossibly intimidating.
That was certainly the case for Ghaith Zamrik and Munzer Khattab, two Syrian refugees who came to Germany one year ago. So they created an app to help them figure out the system in their own language.
Bureaucrazy allows users to enter information into forms in their own language – say, Arabic – and prints out PDF forms in German. It guides refugees through filling out crucial information, translates forms into refugees’ mother tongues and starts filling out forms with standard information like name or date of birth.
When it’s time to drop off the form, it also includes access to maps as well as basic information on things like registering at a citizen’s office, looking for a flat or registering at a job centre. The app will also be easily expandable, so it can be developed to meet the needs of refugees as they develop. And it will be open to all new arrivals in Germany, not just asylum seekers from Syria.
“The stories we have are mostly from our experience with the German process, not just with the refugee case,” Munzer Khattab told Al Bawaba, adding that the difficulties experienced by refugees are in many ways understandable. “Because we are new here that’s making things even harder because we don't have a formal knowledge with the German language or the German process.”
The App was developed as part of the StartUp Europe initiative, in a Berlin Hackathon involving more than 200 programmers where it won first prize.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the team behind the app had very little coding experience before arriving in Germany. All came from different backgrounds, and met at the ReDi school of digital design in Berlin. They developed their idea after they realised bureaucracy – the inscrutable ins and outs of German government, language and housing – was one of their biggest obstacles for integration.
“What we saw from the people that we told [that] the app was really impressive, everyone just loved the idea and they just can't wait to see it live,” Khattab told Al Bawaba. “Our next step is to continue working on the app and to make it available to use on Android and IOS for now.”
The team is now looking for further funding and support from expert coders and donors.