Syrian surgeon's career on hold after failed language test

Hussam in Cardiff

A surgeon who fled Syria has put his plans to continue his career in Cardiff on hold after repeatedly failing an English language proficiency test.

Hussam was granted asylum after travelling to the UK on a fake passport in 2014.

But he needs to pass the language test before he can register with the General Medical Council (GMC) and apply for a job as a surgeon.

Wales is short of 400 doctors, the British Medical Association has said.

He and his brother Shadi have now opened a currency exchange shop on City Road.

Both Hussam and Shadi have taken the test five times but failed to get the 80% mark they need.

Image caption Hussam went to medical school in Ukraine

"I didn't come here because I wanted a better life. I was forced to come here to find a life," he said.

"I used to be a surgeon and suddenly my life has been changed... I was forced to leave. "

Shadi, who also worked as a doctor in Syria, said the language test was too difficult: "To reach this level we need to have a very high level of English language.

"Even the native speakers can't reach this level."

Hussam said he fled Syria after some of his colleagues disappeared after being arrested. He believes they were taken to Saydnaya prison, a facility that Amnesty International has said hangs up to 50 people a day without a proper trial.

"It's a nightmare. I don't know yet if they are alive or not," Hussam said.

He feared it was a matter of time before government forces came for him so he decided to leave the country.

On arriving in Cardiff, Hussam learned English through refugee charity Oasis. He then began working for the charity helping other refugees with everything from housing to asylum claims.

But he often questions if he made the right choice in leaving Syria and his job behind: "Sometimes you think, 'did I decide the right decision?'

"Sometimes I think it would have been better if I'd stayed there. I think I would be more helpful and useful there."

And he is becoming frustrated: "Before I came here I thought it would be a few months and I would get the language and be able to communicate with people and be at a hospital. But after two-and-a-half years I'm still dreaming about it."

Hussam's story is told in BBC Wales documentary Strangers in a strange land.

He told the programme he missed being a surgeon so much he often went to University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff to stand outside the accident and emergency department.

"I come here quite often, I miss being a doctor," he said

But he has not completely given up hope: "One day you will see me here wearing the uniform and you can say, 'hello Dr Hussam'."

Strangers in a strange land, BBC One Wales, 22:40 BST, Monday 3 July

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