Our moves so far.
A chronolocical look at the impressive action of the refugees of We Are Here, the many moves, the difficult and beautiful moments. Of course this overview is not complete – and different people will have different memories and priorities. But it gives a structure to start remembering more!
WE ARE HERE AT A GLANCE
We Are Here started on September 4, 2012 with some tents in the garden of the Diakonie in Amsterdam. A handful of people came together to seek for shelter. There the idea started to make themselves visible and to start a demonstration. They got their inspiration from the demonstrations and Tent camp in Ter Apel and also by the Arab Spring.
Tentcamp Notweg (New-West-Osdorp), 25 sep-30 nov 2012 (2 months):
The group got national attention by starting a tentcamp in Osdorp, where it grew to around 90 people and attracted a lot of media and supporters. It was a very cold winter and the people lived in leaking tents only warmed up by the hot coffee and tea that was brought by some neighbours constantly. We saw a new phenomena: demonstrations organised by refugees. On November 10 a big demonstration walked through the city of Amsterdam from Dam to Stopera. It inspired many. The eviction of camp Osdorp at November 30 resulted in the arrest of all refugees. Most of them were ‘released’ or actually put back on the very cold street again on the same evening. Some of them were put in prison.
Vluchtkerk (West-Bos en Lommer), 2 dec 2012-31 may 2013 (6 months):
The next ‘home’ of we Are Here was the Vluchtkerk (refugee church) a squatted empty church that was turned into a cold but at least dry shelter with approval of the owner. This location attracted new media and new supporters. Churches, mosks, organisations and volunteers came to offer support and also supportive lawyers became involved. There were performances by well known Dutch artists like Anouk and Ty Phoon and the We Are Here band performed in the church and also in other venues like Paradiso. Letters were written to the group members in prison. The biggest demonstration took place in this period. Under the name of Refugee Action 2013, 2500 people from the whole country, including refugees from AZC’s and supporters, gathered at the Vluchtkerk and marched to Museumplein.
Vluchtflat (New-West-Slotervaart), 31 may-31 sep 2013 (4 months):
Vluchtpark (New-West-Slotervaart), 15 jul-24 sep 2013
When the group had to leave the church, to everyone’s big surprise the buses from Theaterstraat showed up and took the people to a newly squatted place. This was the Vluchtflat (Refugee Flat) where people finally got their own private or shared rooms. This period included summer and Ramadan and also a well deserved break from continuous actions. Still some people realized that action should continue, because life in the Vluchtflat was still far from normal life. A group of people initiated an action at Dam square and Stopera (City Hall) where they slept outside in the rain. Several were arrested but others went to another squat, the Vluchtpark (Refugee Park). Also in this period the No Border Camp in Rotterdam took place, where people of We Are Here told their stories, created networks with people from other countries and showed solidarity with the refugees in prison.
Vluchtkantoor/Vluchtschans (Center), 3 okt-2 dec 2013 (2 months):
When the group had to leave the Vluchtflat again, they received night-by-night shelter from churches and squat movement. After a few days a new home was squatted for them – this time in the middle of the center of Amsterdam, opposite of the Rijksmuseum. This became the Vluchtkantoor (Refugee-office) or Vluchtschans at the Weteringschans. It was nice to be so close to the center, so that related activities in the Balie and Paradiso could easily be attended. The owner, however, immediately started a court case and the refugees decided not to go to court and to leave the building. At the end of October a ruling from European Commission ECSR stated that authorities should give shelter and food to refugees. It is still unclear how the Dutch government will put this advice into practice. Lawyers and human rights organisations are working on this issue.
Vluchthaven (Zuid), 2 dec 2013
Vluchtgarage (Zuidoost), 13 dec 2013
After the eviction of the Vluchtkantoor, the group got divided for the first time. Part of the group was allowed to take shelter in a former prison for six months (Vluchthaven at the Havenstraat). After a lot of discussion in the group (mainly because of the trauma’s many refugees have with prisons and also because of the risk of splitting up), people decided to sign out of fear for being put in real prison. Most people that signed, were however not allowed to go in, because they were not in a certain list. For some people (women and sick people) temporary shelter was found. The others were literally back on the street again. Day by day volunteers tried to find shelter for the group for one or two nights. Finally a new place was squatted: the Vluchtgarage in Amsterdam Zuidoost.
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