Category Archives: ruisriet

An activist update of We Are Here in Amsterdam

November 11 2013

The self-organized refugees of WE ARE HERE in Amsterdam will have to leave
their building this week. The owner has a court order to that effect. The
good news is that we have made a succesfull campaign of more than a  year,
since September 2012. And we may well win a legal shelter for a big  number
of refused refugees, before the eviction takes place. It seems the  Mayor of
Amsterdam does not like to see us on the street again, squatting under the
Below you find more info and a call for action to put some extra pressure on
the owner: Bayer Pension Fund in Leverkussen.

WE are part of the Global Uprisings!

The political position of the refugees of We Are Here is very well expressed
in audio in a Parliamentary Hearing last Thursday.

Dear Sirs, Madams,

Thank you for the invitation to speak in this hearing. Today we want to express our feelings to the Dutch parliament as victims of inhuman
treatment. Our asylum case has been rejected. Some of us were living on the street for more than five years before we came together in the garden of the Diaconie, the tent camp in Osdorp, the Vluchtkerk, the Vluchtflat and the Vluchtkantoor. The risks and hazards we face are heavier than any normal person can take.

One year ago, we were evicted from our tent camp in Osdorp. We were surrounded by police and taken into detention, because we protested against the violation of our basic human rights. That same day, we were put out on the street again in the cold winter snow, because they did not know what to do with us.

We then had to stay eight months in the Vluchtkerk (St. Josephkerk) which had been empty for years, to escape from the extreme winter cold. The church was sickening. Almost all of us had respiratory diseases. One of our group members was heavily infected by tuberculosis, others had to go to hospital for their disease, if they could get medical attention.

The Mayor agreed with a review of our cases, to see if we had been rightly refused asylum. However, we were evicted again, and had to stay for four months in the Vluchtflat, without any sanitary facilities. In the Vluchtkerk, one of our brothers, Jean Paul Baba, died because he was in the same situation as us. When we had to leave the Vluchtflat on October 1, we had no alternative. We were out on the street and had to sleep in theatres and churches for three nights.

History repeated itself: we are now at the Vluchtkantoor on the
Weteringschans 109. We don’t have showers, we don’t have clothes, we have just enough food to stay alive, and we do not have the opportunity to work or go to school. Now the owner has claimed he needs the building and we will be out on the street again, because we do not want to violate the law or his property rights.

We have to move from place to place, from building to building. We think this is an inhuman treatment. Even if our asylum case is rejected, the Dutch
government should grant us basic human rights: shelter, food and clothes
because we are stuck here. We cannot go back to our own country, or leave.
Our finger prints have been taken and registered. We will be returned to the
Netherlands if we cross the border.

State secretary for immigration Teeven, and the Mayor of Amsterdam, mister
Van der Laan, refuse to give us protection and shelter unconditionally, even
if 60% of us still have no final result of the review of their cases by
Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland (VWN).
Our message to the Dutch government is as follows:

According to the decision made by European Committee for Social Rights made
on October 25/2013 complaint no 90/2013, you should honour our basic human
rights. We should get a house, food and clothes.

We also want to have a future. We do not want to sit in a squatted building
and be a burden on individuals, mosques, churches, and welfare
organisations. The director of COA, Jan-Kees Goet, recently stated that
asylum seekers should be active. Even if we are refused asylum, we also want
to make an effort to contribute to society by work or study.

We are here. We want to be a productive group in this society. We are
positive thinkers we have no negative intentions. Give us a chance to go to
school. Give us a job. Give us protection. Give us a future. Help us to lead
a normal life!

We would like to speak a special word to Mr Van der Laan, the Mayor of
Amsterdam, if we may.  The owner of the Vluchtkantoor has sent us an
eviction notice. A court case has taken place. We refused to defend
ourselves because we do not violate property rights, and because we are not
criminals. We want to stay together and we will evacuate the building if the
court decides so next monday. We
worry about the coming winter season. If the court decides to evict us, we
have no any option than to leave the building and stay outside. We have
always respected the property rights of the owners of the buildings we lived
in. We cherish our good reputation with the people of Amsterdam.

Dear Mr. Van der Laan, we know that the Amsterdam City Council is much
concerned about our fate. In majority, they have asked you to support us if
the state or private persons and organisations fail to do so. Now the
European Committee of Social Rights on October 25th, in a reaction to a
complaint by the Conference of European Churches, has instructed the Dutch
government that people without a permit “evidently find themselves at risk
of serious irreparable harm to their lives and their integrity when being
excluded from access to shelter, food and clothing.” The Netherlands got the
following advice: “Adopt all possible measures with a view to avoiding
serious, irreparable injury to the integrity of persons at immediate risk of
destitution, through the implementation of a coordinated approach at
national and municipal levels with a view to ensuring that their basic needs
(shelter, clothes and food) are met”.

We hope that you, as our Mayor, will understand our desperate condition and
act practically and positively on it. Accordingly we ask you to provide us
with a better shelter, heating, food and clothing, before we are put out on
the street again.

The Vluchtkantoor at Weteringschans 109 in Amsterdam, which is home to the
wijzijnhier refugee movement, consisting of more than 220 refugee activists
since over a month now, has to be left according to a recent court
decission, within 48 hours and will be be evicted if the movement doesn’t
leave the building until Tuesday 12th November 2013

Neither the city council nor the owner or any alleged NGO supporters offered
any suitable alternatives for the movement to life and continue their
struggle collectively, which basically means depriving them again of their
basic needs like food, shelter and a decent living, in favour of the benefit
of a transnational cooperation and nationalist ideologies spread by the
state and it’s agents.

The official owner of the building Weteringschans 109, the Bayer Pension
Trust e.V. with its head office in 51386 Leverkusen,
( rejected to listen to the refugees demands and
emediately took legal steps against the movement to get rid of the
alleged threat to their profit.

To stop BAYER from their inhuman actions and possibly enable the refugee
movement Wij Zijn Hier to continue their struggle inside the
Vluchtkantoor let BAYER know, that their inhuman actions against the
refugees will not stay unrecognised by the broader public!!!
Write E-Mails to the responsible persons at BAYER PENSION FUND  talk
about what is happening and get organised.

The Struggle against borders must not stop at the borders!!
United we stand!
‘WE ARE HERE’ is a group of refugees without papers, that wants to make the
problems of the unseen visible. ‘We Are Here’ moved from the tent camp at
Notweg where  to the Vluchtkerk, then to the Vluchtflat in Slotervaart.
Since the 3rd of October ‘we are here’ @ the #Vluchtkantoor, in the heart of

Since November 2012 the struggle for the freedom of movement and for human
living conditions of refugees, sans papiers, non-citizens and people with a
transnational background in amsterdam and elsewhere continues.

If the evection is succesfull more than 200 refugee-activsts, some of
whom with serious health issues will find themselves once again without
shelter on the cold and rainy streets of Amsterdam in constant threat of
deportation and police violence.



Where do we go from here?



Refugees on the street, in hiding, in prison in the hands of COA and IND.

We Are Here for a while in the Refugee Church

Here we are together

Thereby we are safe

That is how we are visible

So you can open your eyes to look with us

So you can open your heart

and reach out your hands

to help, support and join us.


Like Typhoon on the last day of 2012.

2013, another year of sorrow, struggle and celebration of life.

m2m connects


The Situation on 12th of September.

 Today Dutch citizens can vote for a new parliament. Todaymore than 40 refugees on the street are camping for weeks already in Sellingen, but the mayor told them to move out on Friday 14th. They will probably move and walk on.

In Amsterdam a growing group of mostly African refugees started on the 4th of September making camp in one tent in the Winter Garden behind the Church charity organization calledProtestantse  Diaconie. There is place for 14 people, but many people come for help to the tent and to the World House. It is a meeting place and a place to come together and find a way to proceed together. Address: Nieuwe Herengracht 20, near Waterlooplein.

On Tuesday 18 the Somali group from AZC Almere  goes to the court session in The Hague to argue against the limitations on their movement (stamping everyday, not moving out of town).

All of us are talking and working to move on together and there are already some great ideas.  There are good ideas for action, and for organizing.

On the 1st of September  30 people from the protest camp in Ter Apel and some supporters came together to talk about the power of the camp and how to build on that. One great idea was to create a Parliament of Refugees for refugees of all nationalities, to find the common ground and purpose and speak with one voice. The reports of the conference are now available for further debate. Together we can make the change that is needed in this country.

M2M makes connections 


See for pics our Community page: We Are Here at

Schiphol People call to commemorate the Fire


Brothers and sisters Schiphol People,

This year we will commemorate our eleven dead of the Schiphol Fire on Friday the 26th of October.




The mayor of Haarlemmermeer has spoken with Papa Sakho, Noury, Ahmed and Mrs. Toekaja about the future of the monument. We made it clear that the monument is one whole and that it should stay where it is. The detention complex at Schiphol Oost will be demolished, because the new prison is finished, you can see it if you go from Amsterdam by car to Schiphol. It is to the right of the A4, just before you go into the tunnel.

The monument is the place for the commemoration, with the eleven wooden pillars with the names of the dead, the three trees that we planted in 2008 and later gave to the people of Haarlemmermeer and the stone that was placed by the government at the entrance of the prison.

Now that the Mayor accepts our view we can organize the commemoration with a little support from the Gemeente. They will give us a bus for the day and will pay for the meeting place in Amsterdam and print the official invitation and pay for the stamps. We wish the commemoration to be comfortable and dignified.

If you need a place to sleep in the night, please contact us!


We come together in Amsterdam from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

We hope at OT301, an alternative cultural center.

Adress: Overtoom 301, 1054 HW Amsterdam.

You can take Tram 1 from Central Station to tram stop J.P.Heijestraat.

After dinner we go by bus to the commemoration at the monument:

Address: Ten Pol 64, 1438 AJ Oude Meer.

And we return with the bus to Amsterdam after midnight.

Papa Sakho, Gladys Toekaja, Ahmad Faical, Noury Momand

Welcoming the Iraqi Invasion Act

On the occasion of the action by refugees-on-the-street who started a camp outside the Collective Center at Ter Apel in the north of the Netherlands on the 8th of May, Jo van der Spek of M2M wrote the following column. These migrants are supposed to return voluntarily to their country, because the Dutch government believes that they are not in danger there. However the governemnt in Iraq refuses to take them back if they are forced. So they have nowhere to go to, no right to be here and no way to go there. But they act together for a chance to live and live better than before. Why not?

Welcoming the Iraqi Invasion Act

Finally it is not the USA that invades The Hague, in order to prevent the application of international justice to American citizens- soldiers. No, it’s Iraqi citizen-migrants occupying common ground in the north of the Netherlands in an effort to force a radical change in
the application of human justice to migrants that are so far denied acces and basic rights.

This act of occupation by a fast growing number of mainly Iraqi refugees-on-the-street is well timed and also well suited to create an uplifting  experience amidst the general lethargy that still covers Holland like  a blanket of mental smog.

Like so many times before in history an external agent, through an unexpected and autonomous action, is now intervening in the Dutch  political landscape, at a moment that everyday political life is in a highly unstable state: no government, a parliament trying to gain legitimacy and a queen dying to hand-over sovereignty to her son. The direct cause for this current limbo lies in  the response to the economic recession and the European conditions  forcing even a rich country like Holland to take extreme measures of austerity. However, the cornerstone of change, the hinge on which the minds and hearts of a significant section of youth and mindful adults may move, is the approach towards migrants and world affairs in general. Poverty is moving in and migrants are dying on the shores of Europe. Soon we will be drifting  together if we don’t take drastic action.

Finally we see the face of globalization reflected in the mirror that   Brussels and Ter Apel are holding up for us to see. We see Geert Wilders as just another make-over of Batman, unmasking himself as just another copy cat of Pim Fortuyn, only adding to the pitiful frustration of the merciless masses voting for him, proving  once again time for messiah is over. One man will not make the difference. Ask Obama.

Finally the Joker hits back. After two exercises last winter led by Somali  brothers and sisters camping in the cold outside the deportation  complex of Ter Apel, now the weather is fine and time is ripe for the  real thing. These poor asylum seekers, strangled by foreign police  and immigration service IND, mentally broken by the thousands in administrative detention, suffocated by laws and lawyers, made  dependant on charity and church, are finally showing who they really are: human! They can really move! They are not victims but actors!
They can be tourists like you and me! So let us not help the occupiers in Ter Apel. Let us not support them, don’t give them tents, blankets or telephone credit. Do not bring your redundant laptops, I-pads or even worn-out  army boots and leather jackets to their field of honour. No, embrace their exemplary autonomous action, join Ali Aziz and Hadi Abu Sanad like in the 16th century we embraced the House of Orange, invading the Dutch swamps at nearby Heiligerlee. Temperature is rising, parliamentary politics is exhausted, corporate business is selling out to China’s communists and Mexican coke dealers.
We got to save ourselves.

We are  here, we the people, we make the difference, we have no borders to cross, we have no cross other than our own indulging in apathy. Let’s throw it off and start the summer. Leave your squat and camp out. Send your children abroad after the exams and restore disorder at home.
Forget your mortgage, bury your debts and love your neighbour.
Let migrants invade this place and help us chase away the ghosts of Rawagade, Srebrenica, the Schiphol Fire and most of all the mist of mental misery hanging over us.

Kambiz dead on Dam

Kambiz Roustayi a 36 year old Iranian citizen set himself on fire on the steps of the National Monument for the victims of World War II on the Dam Square in Amsterdam last wednesday April 6. He died one day later in the hospital because of the wounds of his self-immolation. Kambiz Roustayi was a non-recognized political refugee, who had recently been refused again legal status in the Netherlands. Today a ceremony will be held by migration and refugee organizations on the spot where he performed his desperate deed. Bystanders rushed to the man and tried to extinguish the flames by beating their coats on the violent flames. On May fourth there will be once again the commemoration of those who fell in The War with all the state pomp that goes with it… The ashes of this Iranian will have been swept away, but a stain on the national Dutch conscience will remain…


What is really going on in Libya?

People in Libya manage to communicate news reports via satellite phone, ham
radio, pigeons, across the border local wifi, and who knows what else.

What can we do?

Better than a no-fly-zone

A free communication zone?

Libya cuts off internet

“Free”dial in service for Libya provided by:
Telecomix in Germany: +49 231 97844321 username= pw: telecomix
Xs4all In Holland  +31205350535 user=pw xs4all

Trapped in Europe

Ssuuna Golooba was a photojournalist in his native Uganda. But, like many others, he thought he could make a more lucrative living in Europe. His documentary project Surprising Europe was featured on Al Jazeera.


“Although I had a job in Uganda, I could never look after my family and mother as well as I wished on my salary of $150 per month. Most professionals in my country are paid peanuts and this has forced many of them to look for greener pastures elsewhere. Going to Europe seemed to be the best way to achieve my goals.

During the day I worked as a freelance photojournalist for the New Vision and Bukedde newspapers in Uganda. In the evening, I worked in my own small shop in Kampala, the capital. Not many people in my country can earn that kind of money. I was able to meet people from all social classes, I was able to travel around the country, I had access to everything.

But I had it in my mind to go to Europe because many of my friends had emigrated. Some of them came back home with flashy cars and lots of money. The temptation to make it big and the fear that I was being left behind helped make up my mind.

In Uganda, I lived in a small village not far from Kampala. I was able to build my own small house and also had a small car that I used for work. My house was not so good compared to those of the rich people in the area, but it was okay for me. It had three rooms and no running water inside. I had electricity and a landline telephone. I was living there with my wife, daughter and a housemaid who helped us with the domestic work.”

In search of a better life

“A very good friend of mine went to London; he came back 10 years later with everything – cars, machines to make furniture and about $48,000.

I told him that I wanted to go to Europe, but he warned me not to. I thought perhaps he did not want me to develop.

I started to make arrangements. Initially I wanted to go to the UK, but they rejected my visa application. That made me think maybe it would be better to stay in my country. But I could not ignore the small voice within me telling me to go to Europe. I could hear it saying: “This is your time, use it, you’re not earning enough money here, if there are no opportunities in your country go elsewhere. Many people migrated and they have made it, you will make it.”

On the day of my departure, my family organised a farewell party and a small service to thank God for the visa and to ask for protection and guidance. We gathered at my mother’s house where nearly all my family and friends came to wish me luck and to ask me to bring gifts back with me. We roasted three chickens – everyone was excited.

When I hugged my mother for the last time her face was full of happiness. She told me: “Please don’t let us down and don’t forget us. Work hard so that we can also get some happiness. God will bless you and everything you do in Europe.”

I was looking forward to the challenges but as the plane took off, I started to think about where I was going. I asked myself: where am I going to sleep, who is going to receive me at the airport, what food am I going to eat, what job I am going to do? I tried to sleep but was too nervous and began to doubt my plan.

A European paradise

When I arrived in Amsterdam a man took me to the area where most immigrants live. He had arranged accommodation for me in the house of an African man. There were 15 people of different nationalities living there. I had to pay $162 a month to sleep in the corridor.

After three months I called my mother to ask for money because I was completely broke and had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. I went to Europe to help my family but now my family had to help me. My mother sent me $337, which I used to pay my rent for two months. I still had no money to buy food and, along with some friends, had to survive off other people’s leftovers. Sometimes church organisations gave us food.

Some of my friends were sleeping in semi-finished buildings, on the streets or on construction sites. One Zambian man spent more than a year sleeping on the streets. “I used to see beggars in my country and I could never think that one day I could be one of them in Europe,” he told me.

I will never forget the Nigerian lady who confessed that she was forced into prostitution. “I could sleep with more than five men a day just to get some money for rent, food and medication,” she said. She told me other women were in the same situation. She said they looked for jobs but wherever they went, they were asked for papers they did not have. Some contracted HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Getting together the money for rent and actually finding a room were two completely different things. Many people were afraid to accommodate us because we were illegal. Those that did let us rent rooms could impose unfair rules, like only allowing us to cook once a week.

Facing reality

My relatives back home started calling and telling me stories of hunger and poverty – demanding that I send money. They could not understand why, two years after arriving in Europe, I was still jobless. Sometimes I told them of the realities I had encountered but they did not believe me.

Many people in my situation were being paid cash for their work, but by doing so, became a target of exploitative bosses. Sometimes you could work for 12 hours and then the boss would say he had no money to pay you. We always had to fight for our money.

We could not openly complain because of the fear of losing our jobs. We lived in fear of the police, thinking we would be arrested and deported empty-handed.

When we got sick there was no money for treatment. It is very difficult for immigrants to acquire medication without papers. The Red Cross doctors can only provide you with paracetamol, no matter what the illness. They give you a letter referring you to a hospital but when you get there they ask for your insurance or ask you to pay lots of money. One Ugandan girl developed a tumour in her stomach, but when she was referred to a hospital, they told her that without medical insurance she had to pay more than $4,000 for an operation.

There were also some good people. I remember one retired Dutch doctor who used to help sick illegal immigrants. I went to see him and was amazed by the long cue of waiting immigrants.

The fear of failure

I missed my daughter and mother the most. I left my daughter in a boarding school when she was only five years old and I saw her again when she was 12. She could not remember me very well although she knew I was her father.

I felt depressed when I received calls from home announcing the death of a family member. Many people passed away during the time I was away.

I was not alone in this situation – many other immigrants were experiencing the same thing. Some had been away from their families for more than 10 years. One Ghanaian called Adrian said: “I have spent 10 years without seeing my family. I left my wife pregnant and I have never seen the child. I fear to go back empty-handed.”

The dilemma facing African immigrants in Europe is that they can barely find work. But returning home is no longer an option because they cannot pay back the money they borrowed for their trip. On top of this, the people who stayed at home want their share of the “riches” collected in Europe. They fear going home with nothing, because their family and friends will laugh at their failure and expel them from the community.

All of this makes immigrants vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination and humiliation. It is far from the “gold mountains” they dreamed of.

Many go from Africa to Europe as fortune hunters with high expectations but little information about the reality of life as an illegal immigrant.

Turning point

In October 2005, I read an article about the plight of 11 illegal immigrants who were killed when a fire broke out while they were awaiting deportation at a prison complex outside Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

I was shocked, particularly, because I thought such negligent situations could not happen in a developed country like the Netherlands. This was the turning point in my perception of Europe. I could never have imagined that a disaster of that scale would take place in such a wealthy, well-organised country.

It opened my eyes to the miserable situation I was in and I could see that I was trapped between my false expectations of Europe and the unrealistic expectations of my family.

Then I started the Surprising Europe project. I wanted to tell people the problems that Africans face – particularly those who migrate to Europe with the intention of working and becoming rich.

The project is not intended to discourage Africans from going to Europe, but rather to encourage them to weigh up their options before leaving their homelands.