Letter: Oumar Berete
Pictures: Olfa Ben Ali
Let me introduce myself. I am Oumar Berete from Conraky, Guinea and, a few years ago, I sought asylum in The Netherlands. I am also one of the former refugee leaders from the We Are Here group.
Two and a half years ago, after having been rejected by the immigration service IND, I had no place, no voice, and I officially became persona non grata, an invisible result of the Dutch government’s dysfunction.
I joined other refugees in this similar (non)situation in the tent camp in Osdorp. The media and politicians usually called us “the refused” refugees (uitgeprocedeerd) or criminals. These terms were so overused that they became our only ”unworthy identity”. Together we became one: one body, one voice, one story, one struggle, and one battle. We became a protest group, the We Are Here movement. From Osdorp we moved from place to place: the Vluchtkerk, Vluchtflat, VluchtKantoor, Vluchtgebouw, Havenstraat, and so on. [vlucht = flight]
I should mention that before, during, and after this time, some of us were / have been / will be arrested and put into detention for months because of this “politically correct” name they’ve stuck on us. At the exact time that you are reading my letter, there are men and women sitting in cells around The Netherlands with an uncertain future. This letter is also dedicated to them, so they may feel this fresh little breeze in their cells.
With YOU, The People, we have shared our struggles, pain, fears, tears, our reduced lives. This letter to you would never have existed without your support.
Today is another day, today is a Wonderful Day. Today I want to share this unforgettable day with all of you: After getting my residence permit, I finally became reunited with my children. My children, who I had not seen for years, have finally arrived in The Netherlands and joined me for a better future. While I was battling for my human rights, they were with me every second. They were the fuel for my battles. They are now my future, our future.
My children and I want to thank you, YOU who have always supported us. Without all of you, these pictures would have just been a figment from the imagination of a refugee in limbo hoping that these images would someday become reality.
We Are Here is proof that each individual has an important role in this society, that our unity is strength. And I am one of the fruits of our success.
My dearest children and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!