Adnan Esmaiel, a qualified doctor, is not able to practise in Luxembourg as he completed his medical degree in a third-world country. He spoke to RTL about his experiences.

Adnan Esmaiel arrived in Luxembourg with his family back in 2015, but has not been able to carry out his profession, despite the extensive experience he possesses from his life back in Syria.

In his home country, Esmaiel had everything he could have hoped for. In 2010, he threw a party to celebrate the completion of his studies, which he carried out in Ukraine. "I had so many dreams, so much hope," he told RTL. "I was the first doctor in my region."

Just as he was preparing to start his specialisation as a gynaecologist, war broke out in Syria. Esmaiel collaborated with other doctors to set up field hospitals, in order to treat the war wounded.

On 21 August 2013, Esmaiel's life was turned upside down. A chemical attack in Ghouta, covering several suburbs on the outskirts of Damascus, resulted in hundreds of victims arriving at Esmaiel's clinic, as it was closest to the site of the attack. At the time, he was the only doctor at the clinic.

Shortly afterwards, Esmaiel was contacted by the French ambassador, among others, as well as journalists from all over the world. All sought proof of the chemical attack, in the form of hair, blood and videos, to establish what exactly had taken place that day. Esmaiel cooperated with the requests and ended up leaving Syria, heading towards Turkey. From that moment on, he became a refugee.

After spending two years volunteering in Turkey, Esmaiel eventually arrived in Luxembourg in 2015.

"My biggest dream is to be able to work as a doctor again," Esmaiel told RTL. However, in order for this to be possible, his diploma from Ukraine needs to be recognised as valid in the Grand Duchy.

Marc Piron, of ASTI,  the non-profit organisation for the support of immigrant workers in Luxembourg, said it was a long and difficult journey for refugees. "There are many administrative obstacles," he said. "The recognition of diplomas from third countries can often only be be done in another country. However, those who have international protection in this country are not allowed to just move to another country so easily."

For this reason, refugees first have to seek Luxembourgish citizenship, meaning they must have lived in the country for five years, and must also pass the language test.

Unerkennung vun Diplom aus Drëttstaat / Rep. Diana Hoffmann

Adnan Esmaiel has since obtained Luxembourgish citizenship, and concluded the courses required to have his diploma recognised by a Vienna university. This process was delayed by the coronavirus - unfortunate, given the staffing requirements of the past couple of years.

"We have a real shortage of doctors in this country, particularly specialists," confirmed Dr Romain Schockmel, medical director of the CHEM hospital in Esch-sur-Alzette. "We have to ask ourselves whether Luxembourg is an attractive destination for new doctors." Although it was not feasible to make concessions on the criteria needed for doctors working in Luxembourg, there could be options to overcome such obstacles, he added.

Piron said authorities may have to think outside the box - for example, allowing doctors awaiting the recognition of their diplomas the right to work for a practising doctor while they wait.

Esmaiel is now, despite the many obstacles, close to his first stage goal of practising general medicine. He is expected to receive authorisation to work from the Ministry of Health in the autumn. But for now, he has other struggles on his mind, as he, his wife and their 3 children were made to move out of their home due to renovation work. Without a regular job, he is unable to find alternative housing on the private market. The family has spent a fortnight in a hotel with the help of their municipality, but from 15 August on, they will need to leave again. Costs are mounting up and they do not know where they will end up, Esmaiel told RTL. He said he is hopeful they will receive one last little bit of help until he obtains a contract and can pay for their accommodation himself.