Category Archives: identity

We Are Here, for our Right to Be

This morning at 9 a.m. the judge decided that the camp of refugees may be evicted, if necessary by force. 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. 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 compassionate 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.

Yes we camp

 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.

 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.

 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.

Self-organization

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 political tactics.

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 stakeholders.

Theatre of Hope

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 country today.

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.

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.

 he 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.

 msterdam November 28th

 

Schiphol Fire again in court

The trial of the Schiphol Fire will start again in October in Den Haag.
Again Ahmed Issa will be judged for his role in starting the fire in de
Detention Complex at Schiphol Oost in the night of October 26th 2005. He was
convicted in 2009 by the High Court of Amsterdam and deported to Libya
immediately after. Almost a year ago the Supreme Court ruled that the
verdict had to be destroyed. The essential injustice is that Ahmed Issa is
convicted for starting the fire, but nobody has been held responsible for
the impact of the fire: eleven dead undocumented migrants and many people
wounded for life.

Before Ahmed Issa comes to the trial he demands a guarantee that he wil not
be arrested like before. A clear answer has not come to our knowledge so
far.

Ahmed Issa is alive in Tripolis. He called M2M after the take-over of
Tripolis to say that he is okay. The situation was dangerous, people were
shooting their guns at random in the air and around. A bullets can hit
you by accident: “you cannot be faster than bullets”, he said. For more than
four months there was no contact by phone or email with our man in Tripolis.

In October survivors and friends, The Schiphol People, will again
commemorate the fire and the dead in various ways.

Listen to the final statement of the survivors after the trial on August 23rd 2009.

Papa Sakho in Ruigoord

Invitation

July 2, 3 and 4  2010

Papa Sakho exhibits in Ruigoord

Paintings from Africa and Holland

Saturday 3rd of July at 4 p.m.

Opening speech

With M2M, Migrant to Migrant Radio Teranga

sakho_psilist_s

Cheikh Sakho (Dakar 1960) brought his art to Amsterdam, to the Waterlooplein market and to the prison for undocumented migrants at Schiphol East. He survided the fire in 2005. He tries to make a life again.

Exposition during

Future Reggae Festival with the Mad Professor

Bus 82 of Connexxion brings you straigh to Cultural Freeport Ruigoord. This leaves from Marnixstraat (Amsterdam) via NS-station Amsterdam-Sloterdijk to Ruigoord and IJmuiden and back. Daily between 7 and 23 hours. t

Free entry with this invitation on Saturday 3rd of July

Thanks a lot!

Their names are Blaise, Mohamed, Ricky

Three among the thousands of migrants in detention in Holland.
Blaise just spent 2 weeks in isolation. This was his punishment for fighting against his deportation.
Mohamed is now almost one year detained at Schiphol Oost. He will be out on the street without money or rights. He has to rely on friendship to survive.
Ricky is a traumatized victim of the Schiphol Fire, and once again detained to be deported. He has a criminal record, which weighs heavier than the responsibility of the state for the fire that caused his trauma.

ricky

Ricky at the commemoration, showing where he was in the Schiphol Fire.

Detained migrants need to speak with friends, lawyers and doctors. With persons they can trust, can listen, understand and even act sometimes.
Like anybody else they need to talk with their families around the world.
They call on M2M to ask for help, to find their way out of injustice.
For themselves and for their brothers on the block.
And they ask M2M to give them phone cards.
M2M is doing just that since March 2009.

m2m-sebas-zonder-kader1

M2M, Migrant to Migrant,  organizes awareness and support for the detained migrants in Schiphol Oost, Alphen aan den Rijn and Zaandam. We record their calls, we visit them, we make them part of the commemoration of the fire and we receive them when they are released. In return they are enabled to acted, like they did in solidairity with Ahmed Issa during his trial.
Sali, the young guy from Ghana, never gave up and kept the spirit high. He made a rap for Ahmed Issa which he performed in the Worldhouse, after his release, and on the phone to Ahmed Issa in Libya:

listen to Sali

Sali was arrested again at Amsterdam Central Station on Sunday 27 th of December, together with a friend. He is now in detention in Zaandam.

M2M is here to make  connections, to communicate, as migrants to migrants. We do this without a penny of subsidy, as an independent foundation.

about M2M

M2M received in the last years some 700 Euro from Dutch speakers to contribute to the costs of telephone calls.

Now we ask our English readers to make a similar contribution.
Please donate 10 euro to M2M so we can continue to provide this human right to communicate.

Our bank account is on the contact page of M2M

You can also buy a card (Cobra, LIPS, Eurocity) yourself and mail the code to M2M

thanks a lot!

Illegal Tribunal, Nov.3rd De Balie

Re-thinking the Schiphol Fire

PROGRAM (here in Dutch)

The Public hearing:

STREAM audio and video

toneelbeeld_m2m

Papa Sakho  tells us what we see

learing_sakho
"After the fire we have to learn many things:
About what happened to the Schiphol People,
How they died in the fire.
And also about meeting the migrants.
Why the people move to die in the water.
To get a better life."

migmon_projectie_2

 Proposal for a Momentary Migration Monument (Dutch)
By Tjebbe van Tijen Imaginary Museum Projects)

rita-small1

Final of the auction of the poster Reisbureau Rita,
by Jo van der Spek, Sander and Papa Sakho of M2M (Dutch/English)

Four workshops  were held

Organized by: M2M and De Balie

welcome
Continue reading Illegal Tribunal, Nov.3rd De Balie

making community in the Worldhouse

Notice:  The commemoration of the Schiphol Fire  (26-10-2005) will take place on Monday 26th of October. The Schiphol People will stand together with the eleven dead at their monument at the foot of the fence of the detention complex at Schiphol Oost.

The Blue House on IJburg will be open from 12 in the morning.
Welcome everybody!

On Friday  October 2nd we had another  session of M2M Radio, with Sakho, Jo, Jean, Elisa, Carmen, Johnson and Ahmed Issa :

Welcome in the Worldhouse
Le mot illegal, Jean de Cameroun (french)
The art of communication.: making community
Sali raps
And Sali raps again, for Ahmed Issa

lyrics

Dedicated to Ahmed Issa

Hey Yo, Ahmed
My brother from another mother
No matter how far you fall down
you gotta be ready to stand up.
Stay strong and never give up.
Life is hard, so let’s keep trying.
No harm in trying so make it happen

Life is gonna be the way
you want it to be.
To be a man is not easy.
Many things I learn in prison
bless and still living
try to earn every peny
that I am getting.

Since the beginning of my mission.
When I was conceived
to come in this position

This reminds me of my forefather
who fought and died while demanding
for freedom to live.

Thanks to M2M for making it real.
This is the voice of your lovely brother
Prince Malik.

paleis_facade_s

Art for Ahmed Issa

The day Colonel Gaddafi made a courageous humanitarian gesture and came to Schiphol to pick-up his countryman Ahmed Al-J.

Art works by Tjebbe van Tijen, publisher of The Limping Messenger and curator of  Imaginary Museum Projects.

donnergaddafidetail

ahmedal-jschipholoost

Two days ago I went to a combined theatre performance and action meeting in the Brakke Grond in Amsterdam in support of the the Libyan migrant Ahmed Al-J. who has been at the center of years of court cases and juridical and technical researches about a fatal fire on October 27, 2005 in a detention center at Schiphol airport for migrants, waiting for the result of their appeal against planned extradition. Ahmed had at first been labeled by the court as the main culprit, because of a burning cigaret in his cell that set the whole section of the center aflame an left 11 people dead. Recently he has been acquited of this charge, as a whole series of management and construction mistakes have come to light, as result of a series of inquiries and counter-inquiries. I will not further detail this case too much here as the facts are widely known by now. The incessant support for the traumatized migrants by several action groups (of which at least two should be mentioned here Migrant To Migrant/M2M and All Included), lawyers and some politicians, have had some concrete results, but the essential question of who is to be held responsible for the fact that a single cigarette in a prison-like new facility can lead to so many victims, has still not been answered in a satisfactory way. Singling out the Libyan migrant and his cigaret has allowed to keep out of focus the planners, management and local authorities who have to control the safety of this detention facility (located at Schiphol Oost). Many see this as a form of scapegoating.

Observe this unfolding story in all its details at The Limping Messenger

In Holland, they burn migrants

Here is a letter to heads of state, written in 2006, and never sent. Now that Ahmed Issa is deported to Libya, we publish this document. Meanwhile law counciller Mr. Lionel Lalji is seeking dialogue with the Consul of Libya, Mr. Meloud, in The Hague.

doek-balie1

We burn Migrants

Open letter from a world citizen of Dutch descent to Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. , President of Libya and to the Heads of  State of the other countries that saw their citizens off to the Netherlands: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Senegal, Angola, Sierra Leone, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Morocco

Dear Mr. President, معمر القذافي
I feel compelled to inform you about what is happening in the Netherlands, where your citizens are victims of serious human rights violations. I am directing this letter first of all to you, Mr. Gadafi, since three of your subjects are playing key roles in the drama that is still unfolding. First there is Lutfi Al-Swaiai, who is one of the eleven migrants who died in the fire that raged in the detention centre at Schiphol Airport more than a year ago on the 26th of October 2005. The second Libyan person survived but was treated in a sub-human way after the fire and is still being denied his residence permit. The third is Ahmed Isa who stands accused of intentionally starting the fire in his cell. He has been in custody for more than a year, even though two separate judges ordered his immediate release in 2006. In this letter I hope to convince you that these three men are innocent victims of Dutch migration policies, specifically the policy of detaining undocumented migrants in order to expel them. And I will argue that Ahmed Isa must be considered a hostage of the Dutch government.

Your country hosted an African Summit on migration on the 23rd of November, 2006. I am keenly interested in the proceedings of this conference, given that Africans currently migrate more than any other peoples in the world. Europeans are well aware that large numbers of Africans are trying to reach Europe in pursuit of happiness and a better life. Many Europeans are disturbed at the sight of Africans dying in their efforts to reach the “promised land” in ramshackle fishing boats. Even more Europeans are afraid that this flow of poor migrants is too much of a challenge for their societies, because labour markets and welfare states may not be able to absorb all these aliens. This is why governments are under popular pressure to take drastic measures to keep out or expel migrants.
However, Europeans know less about the price Africans pay in terms of suffering and money extorted by corrupt officials and traffickers alike. Most migrants try to come to Europe to make a living, not only for themselves but also for the families and communities they leave behind. Communities often invest a lot of resources in the voyages of their sons and daughters. The truth is that successful migrants, through their remittances send more money to Africa than all of the West’s development aid. That is a reason why many African governments have no serious problem with waving their freedom loving subjects goodbye. But in this process African nations are losing many of their best educated, most enterprising and creative children. These are young people who could contribute to the prosperity of Africa itself, if only they had better opportunities to create a better life at home. We have to acknowledge that this policy is short sighted. Why would so many young people give up being with their loved ones and leave for a hostile Europe, that time and again proves to be just another lawless jungle rather than paradise?

On the 26th of October 2006, a coalition of activists in solidarity with the survivors of the Schiphol Fire commemorated the disaster that had killed eleven and seriously wounded some 40 others and deeply traumatised many of the approximately 298 detainees (nobody knows exactly how many there were that night!). We staged a commemorative ceremony in a church in the heart of Amsterdam and afterwards in front of the fences of the detention centre itself. And the survivors spoke out. Babak from Afghanistan spoke about his anger: “I would rather die than be humiliated any longer. I refuse to beg any longer.” Babak was referring to the fact that the survivors were forced by their guards, even at gunpoint, to let their fellow cell mates die behind doors that would not open; to the fact that they had to stand or lie for hours in the cold night, waiting for medical care; to the fact that they were transported to equally dangerous prisons elsewhere where some were placed into solitary confinement, bereft of their personal belongings; to the fact that they were denied their human right to receive proper treatment of their injuries and traumas, the right to choose where to live, and the right to be treated as a human beings. Even the 39 direct survivors, who had been in blocks K and J that were destroyed by the fire, were granted residence permits almost a year later in order to (finally!) obtain proper treatment, are still living on 40 Euro a week. Most of them are still in reception centres for asylum seekers, without the right to work or study, or otherwise regain their dignity. Seven others were not granted a residence permit because they were suspected of minor criminal offences. All the other 231 survivors of the fire in the other blocks have disappeared altogether. Most have been expelled on a “voluntary” basis. Existence denied. Look away, please.
Let me tell you, Mr. President, about Cheilkh Papa Sakho, a painter from Senegal. He came to Europe to sell his work and exchange ideas and inspiration with fellow artists. Papa Sakho came barefoot to the church because the shoes that he had bought for the occasion were too tight. In the church he was hardly able to speak, but he cried his heart out to the mother of Robert Arah, one of the boys from Suriname who died in the fire. All Sakho could say was that he was sorry, because he had changed his cell with Robert a couple of hours before the fire. And then Robert died in his place.
Papa Sakho, who is now the informal leader of the group of survivors residing in an outpost called Musselkanaal, is a wonderful person and respected by anybody who gets a chance to meet him. He is not afraid to show his sorrow and able to share his spirit with children and adults alike. “I am respected, because I respect myself”, he said to me. And then we laughed about his shoes. I cannot think of a better show of civil courage than walking barefoot to the service of truth and justice and bowing in compassion with the mother of a dead brother.

Papa Sakho, Babak and other survivors have thus rendered an incredible service to Dutch society. They have shown us who they really are, the people we lock up for not being properly documented. None of them were accused of any crime or violation, not even of trespassing. Being declared “illegal” does not constitute a criminal offence under Dutch law. Yet they are being treated worse than criminals. They usually suffer the same restrictions as suspects of common crimes, or even worse when they are being housed in temporary facilities like boats, hangars or containers (the Dutch prefer cheap solutions). These detained migrants have fewer possibilities to appeal to the courts, because the immigration service (IND) uses administrative law, which provides only very marginal safeguards on the decisions of this ill famed agency. In Holland about 22.000 non-western foreigners are detained every year, some are expelled within weeks, many waste away for many months.
The power of the survivors fighting for freedom, justice and dignity shows us something else as well: they are not poor and helpless asylum seekers. They are real humans who are made helpless by a system that denies their rights as equal human beings in pursuit of happiness, endeavouring to bridge the gap between rich and poor in their own special way, just like anybody else.

We can no longer look away. The Schiphol Fire is to become a turning point in Dutch migration politics, a wake-up call for all who refuse to look away. For all those who are willing to face the truth and are not afraid to look with these migrants, not just watch them on TV. And then, if we want to live up to our proclaimed standards of human and civil rights we must change this system: put a stop to detaining undocumented African, Asian, Arab or Latin migrants. And let us finally start to think hard about the reasons and causes of migration and ask ourselves why a banana, a credit card and a grave stone can travel more freely than the average world citizen. Our leaders cannot convince me that free trade and open markets are good for mankind, as long as people have to die in their attempts to take part in this free trade and enter these markets. Migrants drowned and burnt deliver the message that there is no excuse to deny anybody the right to live and move. As long as our governments let people drown and burn, they burn their own credibility and lose the right to judge others.

Ahmed Isa smoked a last cigarette in his cell before he fell asleep. He did not properly extinguish it and the paper sheets caught fire, probably helped by the stream of fresh air that came in from the air-conditioner. The fire woke him up, his feet were burning. He tried to stop the fire and yelled to alarm the guards. They were not there. All systems failed as was proven by the independent Security Board in a report that forced two ministers to resign, toppled the government and brought about early elections. So last November the Dutch could vote for a new parliament, but no party is prepared to really change the system. Left and right endorse locking up innocent migrants, in order to keep the nation clean and comfortable. Only a minority of Dutch society feels ashamed and powerless against these odds. Protest comes from those who really know the man or woman that is to be thrown out of the country or thrown into detention, including children, sick and old.
Ahmed Isa is to be judged some day for causing the Schiphol Fire. I wonder how he could be convicted for criminal or suicidal intent, when it happened in his sleep. I know who built these prisons, who neglected all safety regulations and who are responsible for putting people there. On the 8th of October, 2006 the High Court of Amsterdam ordered his immediate release from custody and also ordered him to await his trial in the Netherlands. But Minister Rita Verdonk of Migration and Intimidation prevented his release and moved him to the Expulsion Centre at Rotterdam Airport for being an “illegal alien”. On November 22nd, voting day, another judge again ordered his immediate release. But the Minister refused to comply and appealed to the administrative State Court and still kept him locked away. This government is just not able to face the demise of their miserable migration policies. The Dutch are not to be confronted with the face of Ahmed Isa. When I visited him, he said that his only wish is to prove his innocence before a Dutch court. He told me he is drawing portraits of the dead in his head and only talking with himself.

Now, at the end of 2006, Ahmed Isa is free at last, on condition that he reports every day to the local police station. The criminal investigation to construct the case against him is about to lead to his trial in May 2007. His case is just one of many thousands, a clear case of blaming the victim. But we know that the real culprit is the system that has been dubbed “migration management”, which is in practice more like a re-invention of the slave trade than anything that can be called civilization.

Therefore we feel obliged to call on you, Mr. President, and on the international community, to look into this matter and to relieve us of this burden of shame.

Jo van der Spek, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, December 2006

Mr. President, you may wonder why I wrote all this to you. You are not on the record as a champion of human rights. Asylum seekers from your country, and especially those who were forced to return, can testify to that. Still you have been welcomed by the international community after disposing of your program of weapons of mass destruction and of your reputation as a sponsor of terrorism. The European Union has placed its bets on you to play a crucial role in preventing African migrants to access Europe. Your country has been singled out, together with Malta, Ukraine and Bulgaria to serve as a buffer. Transit camps, electronic border controls and close cooperation on migration management are high on the agenda. I’m sure the EU appreciates you a lot for this. I fear however, that policies like the current one in the Netherlands, when exported to countries like yours, may result in more casualties in terms of human lives and violation of human rights and moral values. What happened at Schiphol Airport can be compared to Guantanamo Bay or even Abu Ghraib. If the price of your cooperation with the EU is a general erosion of rights and values, I would rather you called the deal off altogether!