Bureaucrazy: Syrian refugees in Berlin developing app to cut through red-tape



Bureaucrazy. Any foreigner looking to spend more than the allotted visa-free period in Germany (if their country even offers this agreement) knows the true meaning of this word. Germany is the land of the paperwork. The land of organization. The land of fine-print. And the land of endless bureaucracy.

And let’s not get started on the incomprehensible task of pronouncing the words themselves when you first arrive. It took me nearly a month to figure out the correct pronunciation of Meldebestätigung. (This document is a proof of registration in Germany and is required towards getting a temporary permit, insurance and a bank account.)

But now a team of Syrian refugees is developing an app to make the process easier for other newcomers

The name? You guessed it: Bureaucrazy. One of the developers, Munzer Khattab from Latakia, came up with the creative twist of words when he mispronounced the original word ‘bureaucracy’.

When he first arrived in Berlin in 2015, Khattab had almost no German language skills. In the past year, he not only learned German but also came up with the idea to help his fellow migrants, along with 5 other team members.

Another team member, Ghaith Zamrik, from Damascus told the Guardian that when he arrived in Berlin, he was told to sign eight documents Only four were translated into Arabic.

“It was very frustrating,” Zamrik said. “Even my German friends struggle with the paperwork here – imagine what it is like for a newcomer.”

How will bureaucrazy work?

Khattab, Zamrik and four other team members from Berlin’s ReDI School of Digital Integration are developing the app. This is a non-profit organization that trains refugees in coding and entrepreneurship.

The goal of the app will be to simplify the process for refugees trying to move to Germany. Ideally, it will become a one-stop shop for everything asylum seekers need to know such as applying for courses, registering at job centers, opening bank accounts and attaining insurance.

Bureaucrazy will have at least three main functions.

  • Translating German documents into Arabic and English
  • Creating a “decision tree” for frequent problems
  • Designing a service that maps out where individuals have to go to pick up and drop off different forms.

Check out this video about Bureaucrazy from DW here.

An outpouring of support

Thus far, support for the app has been high. The idea won a local software development contest. As well, the app received praise at the Startup Europe tech conference earlier in the year.

“Lots of Romanians and Spaniards told us they needed a similar app. And we had thought this was just a problem for refugees,” Khattab told the Guardian.