"Merkel is the heroine who saved my life" -refugee who took selfie

Six years ago Syrian refugee Anas Modamani took a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It captured a symbolic moment.

It was 2015 – the height of Europe’s migrant crisis...

"I took the selfie and this selfie has a huge meaning for me. For me it's a symbol for all refugees and lives up to my expectations of all that I was hoping for.”

Modamani had just arrived in Germany along with close to 800,000 other Syrians who fled the war at home welcomed by Merkel who had opened Germany's borders and famously told Germans, "we can do it," as the country welcomed in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.

More than any other topic the refugee crisis dominated Merkel's third term.

Now – six years later – and after 16 years at the helm of Europe's strongest economy Merkel is preparing to step down as Chancellor.

Modamani, now 24 and living in Berlin, is still Merkel's biggest fan.

"For me, Merkel is the heroine who saved my life. She is the strongest woman in Europe and she gave me everything that I wished for. And the most important thing, that I could stay here. She is a hero to me!"

"Mrs Merkel made it possible for me to be given a chance here and to stay here and if I think about this picture, then it gets me remembering again and makes me very happy. The picture hangs on the wall in my home and has many meanings for me. It is more than just a picture for me, it has become a symbol."

By the end of 2015, 890,000 asylum seekers had entered Germany, fueling unrest from some local communities and contributing to a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany – or AfD - party.

Despite the relatively new presence of a populist party on the political scene, many Syrians now see Germany as their home and remain grateful to Merkel personally for making her decision.

Hutaf Qassas has adapted completely to life in Berlin working for a job and language centre helping refugees.

"I was in Turkey in 2014/2015 as a refugee and I had nothing! This decision of Mrs Merkel played a massive role in our lives. It's not easy to save people's lives. The consequences of this decision were hugely important for us. Me personally, and most of the Syrians I know, are grateful to Mrs Merkel. She made the decision and then somehow then had to carry it for Europe."

Germany's scramble to evacuate thousands of local helpers from Afghanistan has turned immigration into a big issue in the election campaign as voters worry about a possible repeat of Europe's 2015 migrant crisis.

Modamani is still waiting to qualify for citizenship.

With Merkel soon leaving office, Syrians like Modamani fear that the AfD could capitalize on Germans' angst about Afghan migrants' influx to boost its share of the vote.

"I am worried now about the refugee policies and many other topics. To see what will now change and whether things get better or worse. We don't know, it is a matter of time and I hope that Mrs Merkel decides to stay. But she doesn't want to."

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