Category Archives: Libya

We Are Here


Who are we

We are refugees. We have applied for asylum in this country. Our claims have been rejected. Now we are called ‘illegals.’ But we prefer to call ourselves refugees. Wars, international conflicts and systematic violence have devastated our countries. So you understand why we don’t like being called illegals. We are refugees. And now we live on the streets. We barely have rights. We have no means of subsistence.Here we are together. Here we are more safe. Here we keep hope. For a normal life.



Why we are here

We came here because our lives and freedom are in danger in our countries. That’s why the right to leave your country is a fundamental human right. We have no right to stay in Holland. We have been denied the right to move to another country. We cannot return to where we came from. Sometimes the governments of our countries refuse to take us back in. Sometimes our country does not even have a government. And sometimes we don’t want to go back because we fear it is not safe. We don’t agree with the decision of the Dutch government to deny our refugee status. We claim that asylum procedures are not always fair and just. And many practitioners and scholars in law agree with us. We are not allowed to live here but we can also not go back there. We are suffering the drastic consequences of an unfair and unjust asylum system and a failing return policy.



Where we go

We want to have a normal life and a future. We want to make ourselves a home, work, raise our children, learn, love and laugh. We want the insecurity and despair to end. We claim the basic human rights that have been denied to us. We have been pushed back to the margins of society. But now we are in your face. And by becoming visible we have made visible the severe shortcomings in Dutch asylum and return procedures.



We are here. And so are you. If you want to bestow dignity, freedom and justice upon your country, raise your voice with us. Support us in our struggle to emancipate ourselves from this misery. As a citizen you have the power to stand up and say ‘No’ to your government. Come and talk with us. Many have done so before you. Citizens, academics, lawyers, journalists, artists, photographers, local politicians, and human rights activists support our cause. We kindly invite you to join in.



Facebook: Wij zijn hier
Twitter @wijzijnhierNL @vluchtkantoor

Ahmed Issa is free

Finally some justice after the Schiphol Fire (2005): Ahmed Issa has been relseased of he guilt for starting the Schiphol Fire in 2005 by the High Court of The Hague. The real crime is the practice of putting innocent
refugees in prison. That is the real lesson of the Schiphol Fire.

The fire killed 11 migrants in detention. People are being kliled every day, because it kills your mental health to be in prison for no other reason than to be deported. We are not criminals.

Papa Sakho comments: We Are Free
Gladys Toekaja is happy for Ahmed
Babak is relieved, for the survivors it is now clear.

thanks also to Mr. Eduard Damman, who worked so long as his lawyer.

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

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.

Open escape routes, take in refugees!

Appeal from Choucha:

We want to leave! Europe must help!”  The demands on the cardboard signs of refugees and migrants at the Tunisian-Libyan border are clear – and compelling: 5000 people have been waiting for weeks and months in unbearable conditions in the camp of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Choucha. All of them managed to escape the escalating civil war in Libya. Many were employed as migrant workers, others had sought refuge from the war and crisis zones in Sub-Saharan-Africa. Survivors of capsized refugee boats meet in Choucha those who, arising out of despair and despite all dangers,
are setting off for the road back towards the Libyan border to risk the dangerous crossing to Europe. On the 5th of May 2011, when four  refugees from Eritrea died at a fire in the improvised tent city, there were spontaneous protests and road blockades. The Tunisian
Military responded with tear gas, residents attacked the camp. At least two refugees were killed, many were badly injured.


The refugees in Choucha were and still are hoping for help and support from the UNHCR, which had requested the European countries, among others, several times during the recent weeks with the intake of at least 6,000 refugees from Libya. In vain. Rather, the European border agency Frontex is given more and more contracts and the new democratic governments in Northern Africa are lured with offers of money, so they continue to be the watchdogs on the southern rim of European borders.
The situation in Choucha must be seen in the context of the forward externalisation of the European border regime to Northern Africa. In the defense of refugees and migrants, the European countries have shamelessly worked together for years with the despots of the Maghreb, especially with Ben Ali in Tunisia and Qaddafi in Libya.
Now, indeed, the democratic transition is welcomed, but help is refused to all those who are stranded in the Tunisian refugee camps and for whom there is no return.

The voices of Choucha stand for the desperate protest against a policy of flagrant human rights violations, as they take place every day in many hot spots of Europe’s external borders. A break with this policy is necessary to stop the dying at sea and in the desert. The
democracy movements in Northern Africa provide the opportunity for a fresh start. Instead of fatal exclusion and grotesque threat scenarios, openness and solidarity must shape the future of the Mediterranean area. It needs bridges instead of walls for a new
African-European relationship in order that Europe becomes a place of real freedom, general security and equal rights for All.

The acceptance of refugees from Choucha in Europe would, in this sense, set a first, not just symbolic character. We therefore call on the responsible policymakers at the European level, in the federal government, states and municipalities,

– to take emergency aid measures and take in the refugees from Choucha and other temporary refugee camps in Europe.

– ­ to provide humanitarian support for Subsaharan migrants, who were already flown out from Libya or Tunisia. For example just in Mali over 10,000 refugees have arrived since the beginning of the war in Libya.

– to give up the existing deportation policies at the external borders in favor of a humane and generous asylum and immigration policy that is consistent with the rights of refugees and migrants.

– ­ to support the democratic upheavals in Northern Africa seriously and to understand it as an opportunity for a changing neighbourhood policy.

Pro Asyl, Medico International, Borderline Europe, Afrique-Europe Interact, Welcome to Europe
31st of May 2011

Sign online: / Choucha-appeal

For further information and to sign online refer to:

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 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, 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!

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


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.


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.



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.


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!