We Are Here, for our Right to Be
Refused refugees living on the streets of the Netherlands struggle for life
Eviction of protest camp in Amsterdam, Friday November 30, 2012
The Mayor of Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands, has ordered the
eviction of the protest camp of refugees in the western suburb of
Amsterdam called Osdorp. A verdict by the court will be announced on
Wednesday 28th at 9 a.m. The approximately 100 refugees demonstrating in
the camp are determined to stay where they are and face the police force
and subsequent detention. They call on all people to witness this show
down and show support in a manifestation in front of the camp and on the
streets of Amsterdam. This event starts Thursday 29th of November at 2
p.m.. The eviction can be expected the morning after. We call for
witnesses, observers and comapssionate citizens to join and demand the
right to live for all who are here. We intend to turn this crack down into
a Theatre of Hope.
The full programme will be disclosed in a Press Conference in the Camp on
Wednesday 28th of November at 5 p.m. (Central European Time)
Location: Notweg 32, NL1068 LL Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In Amsterdam and The Hague rejected refugees from Africa and the Middle
East are enduring the harsh weather in make shift tent camps where they
demonstrate against the Dutch way of treating rejected refugees since
September 4th (Amsterdam) and 19th (The Hague). Since 2010 asylum seekers
who have been rejected are no longer entitled to basic rights such as
shelter and food. Even when it is impossible to return to their countries
of origin, the Dutch government argues that they can leave voluntarily.
Denying them access to reception centers, putting them in prison and
forcing them to survive in parks, railway stations and insecure hiding
places, that is the way to convince them to leave this country. In the
first half of 2012 4.680 asylum seekers have been dumped on the street
without any life support, according to the International Network of Local
Initiatives with Asylum seekers (INLIA). These self-organized action by
the refugees have highlighted a humanitarian problem that has been growing
for years and was hidden from the public eye. Now these people have made
themselves visible and seek solutions by entering in dialogue with civil
society and democratic representatives. To realize their aims they need
to be together, safe and visible. Apparently the authorities want to make
them disappear again. The only offer is for some of the refugees to go for
30 days in dispersed shelters for homeless people. After that they would
again be on their own, insecure and invisible. A growing number of
supporters is trying to create sustainable ways to continue this struggle
for human rights. One way would be to make a space available as a meeting
point for refugees, a House of Hope.
Our life is in danger.
On their blog, the refugees that camp out in Amsterdam declared:
“We are here because our life is in danger. There are many reasons for
this. War is the most important one. There are several armed conflicts in
Africa that cost many lives, disrupt families and livelihoods. Political
violence and oppression, religious division, problems between tribes and
clans add to make solutions complicated. Drought, famine and other
economic factors also push people to find a better future elsewhere. All
these cases are inter-related. We can see this in the extremist movements.
They make life impossible for you if you do not conform to strict rules.
Having a drink can cost you your life. Being a member of another tribe, or
of another religion, can bring you into deep trouble. So we are here
because we face persecution and danger in our countries. We need to be in
the Netherlands because this country is a free country where our lives are
safe and we could build a future. “
We want your help. We want to get out of this situation. We want your
help, not just with food and drinks, but with the broader issues. Help us
with publicity, be creative: think about how you could help. Whether
you’re politically active, or a journalist, everyone can help in their own
way. We have 5 representatives you can talk to, to explain our situation.
If you want, you can call us:
el mouthena :0685602714
bayisa : 0684482895 mamadou : 0684997713
The name “Refugees-on-the-Street” was coined when they started organizing
in the spring of 2011 in Utrecht, with support of the STIL Foundation, a
solidarity group for migrants without a residence permit. They are people
who fled their home country, asked for asylum but were denied permission.
The capstone of the asylum procedure is deportation. Undocumented migrants
are systematically held in administrative detention for up to 18 months
and this can be repeated endlessly. If they cannot be deported they are
put on the street without any title of right, no shelter no care, nothing
at all. Most of them go in hiding, including women with children. They
depend on charity, on good will (or bad will) of private people. But more
and more refuse to hide and they fight for a decent life, for hope.
Since the big tent camp in ter Apel everybody knows they are here. Through
their demonstrations and actions, by their presence in the media and in
politics they have joined the public debate. In Amsterdam the Camp against
the Cold started on the 4th of September where a growing number of
refugees find shelter, food, safety and medical care. With their slogan
“WE ARE HERE” (WIJ ZIJN HIER) they show that WE are human beings, WE have
nowhere to go, WE stay here until we have a solution that respects our
human rights. In the camp at Notweg 32 in Amsterdam Osdorp are mainly
African men and women (children are not allowed by the Mayor of Amsterdam)
from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenia, and francophone people from
Congo, Mauretania, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinee. There are
individuals from Yemen (2), China and Armenia.
In Den Haag a group of Iraqi (mostly Kurdish) refugees is camping near the
central Staion in open tents in worse conditions than in Amsterdam. They
carry the name RIGHT TO EXIST.
The two actual groups of activists continue previous actions, notably the
massive protest camp of last May in front of the Deportation Complex in
the northern village of Ter Apel. Most of the 400 refugees of this camp
are still lodged in various reception centers, where they enjoy limited
freedom and are not able to demonstrate. The activists share their
experiences and views by mutual visits, mobile phones, and some via
Facebook and email. Around the camps a network of helpers, supporters and
activists (type Occupy), artists, academics etc. gather to provide direct
aid, temporary solutions and advice en optuions for more structural and
M2M (Migrant to Migrant) Foundation initiated the project WE ARE HERE
right after the eviction of the big camp in Ter Apel. The aim was to
collect all graphic material from the camp and make collabaritively a
selection to produce a mobile exhibition for a wide audience. An
underlying purpose was to maintain the communication between the dispersed
groups and to reflect on the experiences of the self-managed camp.
Parliament of Refugees
On September 1st 2012 M2M organized a work conference in Arnhem with 30
participants from the Ter Apel camp and 3 academic supporters. By
elaborating on the values of the experiences en putting them in a
perspective of future solutions the concept arose of a parliament of
refugees. This body could articulate the common ground and the vision of
the various groups of refugees and undocumented migrants into a coherent
discourse and enter into a dialogue with society and authorities. This
would help a lot, because a sustainable approach to the global complex of
migration cannot be elaborated without the equal participation of all
THEATRE of HOPE
for refugees on the street
“I don’t want to die. I need life, I need hope.”
These are the words of the Ethiopean woman Meskeren to mayor Kompier of
Vlagtwedde during one of her visits to the tent camp of
Refugees-on-the-Street in Ter Apel (May 2012)
The Theatre of Hope is a building in Amsterdam where
refugees-on-the-street can live and demonstrate as the face and the voice
of a growing group of outlawed people. It is a stage for dialogue with
Dutch society in search for a normal life. A ring of supporters around the
tent camp in Osdorp provides the building and a supporting structure to
enable the users to manage the building and the program of activities.
This is how the initiators hope to contribute to the self-organization,
communication and participation of the Refugees-on-the-Street. This
project is about empowerment and democracy in a situation that pushes
thousands of people over the brink of civilized life. The democratic
process in the Netherlands has created a substantial infringement on the
human rights and the dignity of migrants. The Theatre of Hope is a step
towards a solution. The creation of a public space is a vital contribution
to repairing the present gap of democracy and human rights in our own
Design the Future
The concept of the Theatre of Hope was born in the first workshop called
Design the Future on October 13th in the camp itself, again with thirty
participants and some ten professional artists, architects and social
designers. This workshop was a co-creation of M2M and The Beach of social
designer Diana Krabbendam. The Theatre of Hope in the House of Hope will
meet the two most urgent needs of the refugees: a place to stay in the
winter and a space to develop their movement.
Have you missed the show?
In the last two months the Theatre of Hope and the Parliament of Refugees
have actually already started in practice. The camps attract wide media
exposure and negotiations are going on with council member, mayors,
ministers, members of parliament and diplomats. The internal organization
and procedures for decision making are in place: general meetings when
needed bring all campers together, and every week a public General
Assembly ratifies the steps proposed in the workshops. Recently, on
October 23rd. A round table meeting with 6 parties who form together a
progressive minority in Parliament was prepared by a team of Women against
deportation, bringing to the fore the voice of the women in the camp with
their gender specific issues and stories. In this manner the process of
articulating an independent and coherent discourse the first steps towards
a creating a representative body have been taken.
The tent camps are a public manifestation, a stage for direct and mediated
exchange with neighbors and society at large. Demonstrations and public
actions at offices of the Immigration Service and in front of the
Parliament are equally public performances of presence, passion and power.
The Theatre of Hope was first presented on October 20th in collaboration
with the Sandberg Academy of Design within the framework of a public
debate on Soft Power.
Every Saturday the workshops Design the Future will continue to provide a
structure for building both the community and intensifying communication
and collaborations with supporters.
Towards Xmas we will stage a massive public event.
The on line platforms are Facebook: Wij Zijn Hier and the web site
Jo van der Spek
Director of the Migrant 2 Migrant Foundation (M2M)
More information to be found at:
Source: e-mail at squares mailing list.