Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees

There are so many stories about how absurd the asylum procedure is and they need to be told. These are real stories from the We Are Here refugees, although anonymous.

The asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part I

Many refugees – a refugee explained – do not get their status, because the IND says they cannot prove that they come from the country they claim they come from. Let’s take for example someone from Somalia. He explains that he fled because of the danger in his country. The IND believes it is dangerous in this country, but his asylum request is denied because he cannot prove he is from Somalia. The next step is that NL tries to deport the refugee. The question he has is: why do you try to deport me to Somalia, if just before you told me you didn’t believe I am from Somalia? In a known case the refugee got a laissez passer (travel document) to Somalia needed for the deportation. The lawyer started a new procedure and used the fact that he now has a travel paper to Somalia as new proof of his identity/origin. However the IND and the judge rejected that as new evidence. So the laissez passer (LP) is valid for deportation but not for a status??

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The asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part II

Here is someone who told the IND that he fled from his country because he was wanted by the government as he played a role in an opposition party.

Of course he needed to provide proof for this. After many years of trying to establish contact he managed to get a document over. A warrant. When he showed this to his lawyer, he said that the IND will not accept this as proof, because it cannot be proven that the document is real. He said that the best thing would be to send it back to his country and to have a stamp from the government and also after that to go to his embassy to get a confirmation that it is real. So this young men is told to go to the authorities that he is running from to kindly ask them to confirm that they will capture and torture him as soon as they find him…

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The asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part III

Today we introduce you to a refugee that fled and like most others heard from the IND that he needed to provide more proof. But to be able to provide proof, he first needed contact with friends or family he left behind.

It is not easy to find people back, if they live in an area where communication is not advanced (often not even telephone), many of them fled as well and you yourself are living on the street in The Netherlands. Luckily there is the Red Cross, with a specific department specialised in finding back family members. So he went there to ask for help. They had a long meeting in which he explained in detail where he lived and how to recognise the person concerned. After several months he was invited to discuss the result. The result was that they didn’t find her. Then they discussed the option of finding another family member. But in the end the Red Cross decided they will not try it. The first person was a woman, which limited the risks. But finding other family members would be too dangerous. Although the workers of the Red Cross are used to work with considerable risks, there are limits. In addition, also the family members would be put in danger. A wise decision. But leaving the refugee again with empty hands. Because the expert opinion of the Red Cross that even asking around about him would be too dangerous for their workers and the people involved, is not considered by the IND as enough proof that it might be too dangerous for himself to go there…
A year of his life further. The hope of ever finding the needed evidence diminished.

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Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part IV

Here is one refugee who was living a nice and peaceful life but due to a conflict some of his family members got killed and he had to flee.
Already a couple of years in The Netherlands he does not manage to get a status.

He would love to go back to his county where he grew up and feels at home. He owns a piece of land that he would like to work. He is praying almost daily that the situation in his country will change so he can go back. In the mean time he had hoped to be safe somewhere else and to continue his life there. But continuing his life in The Netherlands seems impossible. Being chased on daily basis without the possibility to work, being put in detention, loosing all his energy to keep hope…
He therefore started to consider to return. He is afraid to be killed. If he is lucky though he will be put in prison for quite a while and be tortured. But at least, he said, after that he could maybe continue his life. But as he was not yet ready to die he asked the IND if he could go to another country. One of the neigbouring counties maybe. Or one of the countries he traveled through when he fled. The answer was no. These countries would not give him a laissez passer as he does not have their nationality. So what choices does he have left?
A big congratulation to the Dutch policies. One more refugee considering return to his home county! The strategy seems to work. One more person whose life is made so miserable that he considers risking being killed and even might prefer torture above staying in The Netherlands. Another person derived from basic human rights and with no options left. Another beautiful human being destroyed.

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Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part V

Today we introduce to you a refugee that was put in prison and tortured. When he got free, he fled the country. He can describe in detail how the prison looked, how they were treated. The scars of his torture are visible on his body.

Now the IND comes with a new nice surprise. They say he can go back to his country, because he cannot prove he will face a risk. After all they let him free, so why should he be worried that they will capture him again?
It is easy to refer to many reports of human rights organisations, that state that Oromo people in Ethiopia (of which there are many in the We Are Here group) face a risk of being arrested and tortured. Take for example these statements of Human Rights Watch:…/…/05/ethiopia-brutal-crackdown-protests

Also the official ‘ambtsbericht’ about Ethiopia, that the IND uses for deciding about asylum requests states: ‘The authorities in Oromia since years use repression, intimidation and violence to fight and discourage opposition and criticism, usually under the guise of anti-terrorism. In the report period police and security forces again arrested and detained Oromo.’

However, the IND argues, it does not mean that every Oromo person will be detained and tortured. You need to bring specific proof that this will happen to you. The fact that it already happened to you before, is apparently not enough proof. The refugee cannot show a warrant that proofs he will be captured. The fact that the authorities randomly arrest and don’t follow their own legal procedures (all also described in the ambtsbericht) and that young men are usually targeted and that he apparently caught their attention does not make a difference to this decision.

So instead of getting help to overcome his traumatic experience, he is put on the street. Game over. For real. Because now that he applied for asylum in another country and told the story of what the authorities did to him, the risk of being caught again when he returns only became bigger. And believe me – if you experienced what he did, it is a miracle that you can still smile and drink tea with visitors. You are not going to risk to have that experience again.

So he will remain being nobody, being nowhere, being nonexistent.

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Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part VI

Freedom of expression. An important value in The Netherlands I thought. But not for refugees. One of the refugees was literally told that he should go back to his country and shut his mouth: If you will stop being politically active, not make yourself heard, you will also not face a lot of risk anymore.

There ends the myth about freedom of expression. Apparently only if it suits.
The same reasoning could go for several scenario’s (and I came across them as well): stop showing your religion, stop showing your sexual preference, stop fighting for freedom, stop demanding equal rights. In short: just stop expressing your thoughts, believes, political ideas, stop being yourself. Just lock yourself up in your house and be quite. Apparently that is the value we as The Netherlands want to bring to the refugees that come to our country to ask protection from us and want to experience freedom.

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Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part VII

Several refugees of We Are Here come from Libya. Actually we don’t need to look at individual stories because all of them are simply wondering: how on earth is The Netherlands thinking of sending us back there?

Nearly all people from the West, including diplomates, have fled the country; for example by car to Tunisia. The country falls apart now. What remains, writes the New York Times, is a monstrous shadow state. Based on militias and with endless stocks of weapons and munition. Thanks to our generous arms donations when we helped the Libyans fight Ghadaffi.

There is not even a government anymore, but several. Hardly governing. The country is a big chaos in which shooting and killing is common practice and many areas are completely distroyed. The travel advice of The Netherlands says: ‘Don’t travel to Libya. If you are in Libya, leave the country. The Dutch embassy in Tripoli is temporarily closed since July 29, 2014, due to the bad safety situation. Violence is both against internationals and Libyans. In Libya there is a high threath of terrorist violence.’

Somewhere I don’t get it either: where do we want to sent people to??

The Libyan refugees of We Are Here are just hoping that friends and family that stayed in Libya are still alive. In the mean time they try to work on their procedures. Several Libyans did get a status in the past, but after the elections of last summer, the Netherlands argued that Libya is now a democracy and safe and nice to live, so their status was withdrawn. Of others (for example black Libyans) IND simply does not believe they are from Libya. And again others got an F1 status, which means they are treated as war criminals. Anyone who was in any way connected to Ghadaffi easily got an F1, without any further evidence that they committed any crimes.

Watch Nieuwsuur of some time ago (23-29 minutes) in which the story of Ahmed – one of the Libyans of the We Are Here group – is told. Also it provides a clear picture of the chaos in Libya. Human Rights Watch urges: ‘No country should be sending back any civilians to Libya to anywhere in Libya. Because we do not think that the situation in any part in Libya is save enough for a civilian to be sent back to.’

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Procedure throug the eyes of the refugees – part VIII

Here one to think about. What would you do? What would you do if you were surviving several years on the street in The Netherlands and your lawyer tells you you need proof. You do everything you can to get in touch with people in your home country and finally you manage.

You are very happy – the first time since the day you fled your country that you are in contact with someone that connects you to where you are from. You are so grateful you found him and at that moment he is the only person in your live that you really love. Although it is not easy for you to tell him that you are in trouble, you decide you have to. And you ask him for help. You need documents. He sounds very hesitant. There is not much time to talk and explain, because calling is very expensive. You ask him to think about it and say that you will call back later.

When you call him again, he explains that he is scared. Asking around for these documents could put him in danger. You explain that your live depends on it and in the end he agrees.

You know that these things are not easy and will take a while. You wait patiently for him to contact you. When you finally get the call you are highly exited. But what you hear is a total shock. He tells you that he went to offices to try to get your documents but that they were not helpful. That after that he received a visit of someone who told him to stop searching for these documents and some time after he was taken from his home and put in a police station, where he was beaten and threatened. You feel really guilty because this was because he did what you asked him. You tell him that you understand that he will stop searching for the documents and that you are still very happy that you found him and that you have contact.

You don’t have any money at that moment so you cannot call back for quite a while. After some time, when you can get some money from a friend you decide to call. You get no answer. You keep trying but without a result. Over the time you try again and again but you find the number closed.

You don’t know if he is too afraid to be in contact with you and changed his number or if he is put in prison or… maybe doesn’t even live anymore. You think about this every night and day until it drives you crazy.

When you get a new lawyer she says that she needs documents. You tell her it is not possible to get these documents. She says without these documents there is not much she can do for you. You talk to a friend and tell him this story. You say ‘I am never ever going to ask anyone anymore to do something for me, to find any documents for me, to risk his life for me.’

What would you do?

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Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part IX

Time for a positive story. A refugee that worked so hard on getting proof and managed to find such convincing evidence that he could do his hasa (renewed asylum request) with confidence. So how does this work?

When your lawyer decides with you there is enough new evidence for a hasa, he/she submits the request to the IND. In a couple of weeks you will receive an invitation to come for a whole day to a location where the interview will take place. This is an exciting and stressful day because you know your live depends on it. The result will not only depend on the evidence you gathered, but also on your answers during the interview and also on the mood of the interviewer and the quality of the translator…

After the interview you will get the report. Together with your lawyer you can make corrections in writing. Then you get your decision. It can be a positive (you will get your status), or a negative which is called a ‘voornemen’ (this is the intention to give a negative), or you get a prolonged procedure (we don’t know yet what to do). If you get a voornemen your lawyer can write a ‘zienswijze’ for you in which you respond to the intention.

To our big surprise this refugee got a voornemen and was sent to an AZC (asylumseekerscenter). The IND basically simply didn’t believe his evidence was real. After the voornemen the final decision arrived (beschikking). It was negative. The lawyer decided to appeal against this decision. After all it was very clear that he would face serious problems if he would return to his country. For the asylum procedure you have to appeal against a beschikking through a court (beroep). In all other procedures against a beschikking of the government this is not necessary; you can appeal by yourself (bezwaar).

And there is another problem. In the asylum procedure – as the only legal procedure in the Netherlands – the judge will in an appeal only review formally. This means the judge only checks if the procedure has been followed correctly and does not have access to the files. There will not be a review on the content of the case and whether it is correct or not that the asylum request has been rejected.

And the appeal can take time. Then the waiting starts. A week, another week. A month, another month. Again your life on hold.

Also in this case the judge decided that the procedure was followed correctly and therefore the rejection was confirmed… So the refugee is back to where he started. Or actually not. He gathered all the proof he could and it was not believed. So his hope for a solution is lower than ever before. Leaving himself and everyone around him speechless.

We promised a positive story… well it didn’t turn out to be one. To make up for it we can say that around 25% of the group managed to get a status in a later stage – sometimes after years. This confirms how inaccurate and bureaucratic the procedure is.

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Asylum procedure through the eyes of the refugees – part X

Here is a refugee who lives in The Netherlands for several years. He speaks Dutch well, he goes on his bike to the city to well… visit friends. If he would have a permit he would probably go to his work, but now he can’t, as he is not allowed to work.

He is so long in The Netherlands without status because the IND does not believe he comes from Somalia and therefore does not give him papers. With the help of supporters and a new lawyer, he opens his case again. He found new evidence, which was not easy.

He does his interview and then has to wait for the result. The result comes. The IND says: we now believe that you came from Somalia after all. Congratulations. You provided us enough proof now (they don’t say sorry for all the years you spent on the street by the way). But, we now see the place in Somalia that you come from is safe enough for you to return. So thanks and goodbye.

So after all these years of being denied his right, in which he still managed to adapt totally (as much as possible when you don’t have papers) to the Dutch society, he is now simply told again to shut up. To go back to a country that is torn apart by civil war and fights. A country where he knows nobody and nothing.

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