Category Archives: refugee

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.

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.


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


We are here


images from the camp of refugees in Ter Apel, Holland May 2012

Refugees without rights created a protest camp in The Netherlands
from May 8 until may 23rd, when they were evicted.

The pictures that were taken by themselves and by professional photographers will be brought together in an
exposition that will circulate through Holland and on the Internet.

M2M made the first presentation on UN International Day of Refugees.

Wednesday 20th of June

Barth Chapel, Brouwersgracht
2K, 2512 ER The Hague

Ter Apel Camp Radio records

M2M’s Open Camp Radio in Ter Apel happened from May 14th till the end on May 23rd. We publish the  recordings in four languages. English, Dutch, Arab and Somali.
We start with the high lights:

Doctor Co van Melle recording his own detention. (Dutch) click

The opening of the live radio with Ahmed Al Obaidy and Sam Saeed (English, Arab, Somali) click

An Eritrean woman telling the mayor , Mrs. Leontien Kompier, why she is here in the camp. click


Liberation Day After

May 5th was Liberation Day. The National Committee for 4 and 5 May called on Dutch citizens to pass freedom on. On the 6th of May we did that.  See the report at

We pass freedom on to migrants in detention. The freedom to communicate. We give you a phone number


and we invite you to tell us your story. If you want we record your voice and publish it in our media, like M2M Radio.

We pass freedom on to the guards. We offer you the freedom to open the doors, the fences and the gates. To set the prisoners free to walk like a man.

We pass freedom on to politicians. The freedom to reflect and correct. The pursuit of happiness is not a crime. The right to find a way to make a better life.

Your freedom is my freedom.

Let us celebrate this freedom everyday.


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: