Family of baby named after Angela Merkel loses asylum bid

Tema Alhawar and Mamon Alhamza with baby Angela Merkel at their home in Mönchengladbach, Germany, on Friday.

Story highlights

  • Syrian father of 11-month-old Angela Merkel says he was "shocked" at asylum rejection
  • More than 200,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in Germany so far in 2016

(CNN)A Syrian family that named their baby Angela Merkel after arriving in Germany last year has had their application for asylum in the country rejected.

Mamon Alhamza, 27, and Tema Alhawar, 21, fled the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli last year to escape the civil war that has ravaged the nation, leaving an estimated 400,000 people dead.
    Alhawar, who was heavily pregnant when she arrived in Germany, gave birth to their daughter on December 27 while the couple was living at an accommodation facility for refugees in Duisburg.
    Writing to CNN on WhatsApp, Alhamza said the couple had decided to name their daughter after the chancellor as an "expression of thanks to the German government" for their warm welcome into the country and the care his wife received during childbirth.
    Angela Merkel Alhawar smiling at her home in Mönchengladbach, Germany.
    The pair wanted to show their gratitude to German chancellor Angela Merkel, their daughter's namesake, for the open door immigration policy which allowed them to seek refuge in the nation last November.
    The family, now living in Mönchengladbach, received a letter from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees with their asylum decision last week. The documents, which Alhamza shared with CNN, state: "Asylum application rejected."
    Alhamza, Alhawar, and 11-month-old Angela were granted family subsidiary protection, which affords them a residence permit for one year, with the option to extend for a further two years.
    "I was shocked at the decision of the court not to give us asylum," Alhamza said, adding that he hopes to appeal the decision.
    He said he and Alhawar had come to Germany, along with hundreds of thousands of other migrants last year, believing that Syrians would be granted asylum there.

    'Open door' policy

    According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 258,597 Syrians applied for asylum in Germany between January and October 2016. Of that number, 93,925 received subsidiary protection, like Alhamza's family, while 577 were granted asylum.
    "Subsidiary protection applies when neither refugee protection nor entitlement to asylum can be granted and serious harm is threatened in the country of origin," a press officer with the Federal Office said in an email to CNN.
    Germany opened its doors to refugees last year, saying it would allow Syrian citizens to stay in the country regardless of where they entered the European Union, flouting the Dublin regulation's rules on asylum claims.
    A bureaucratic tweet posted by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremburg on August 25, 2015, announced that Germany's gates were open -- spurring families like the Alhamzas to reach the central European nation.
    "We are at present largely no longer enforcing Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens," the tweet read.
    The Federal Ministry of the Interior announced in September that 890,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in 2015, revising the number downwards from 1.1 million. It was not clear what percentage of those were Syrian nationals.
    According to the Federal Office, 428,468 Syrians were registered last year under Germany's EASY system, which is used for the initial registration of migrants and refugees arriving in the country.

    'No future in Syria'

    Alhamza said he was studying at Al Furat University's Faculty of Law in Hasaka before the war broke out, and hopes to continue his studies in Germany.
    "I want to learn the language and find a good job," he told CNN.
    Three days after baby Angela was born, a series of suicide bombings rattled Qamishli, the city near the Turkish border that the Alhamzas had left behind, according to local media reports and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
      Alhamza said his family has a "happy and secure life" in Germany, and would like to settle in the country.
      "I would have liked to stay here to build a better future for my family," he said. "We do not have any future in Syria."