Refugees refuse city location

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The refugees of the activist group 'Wij zijn hier' ('We are here'), who have been roaming the Amsterdam streets for over a year now, will not accept the new location for a shelter proposed by the City.The former prison on the Havenstraat is not considered a good location, because it reminds the refugees of alien detention, according to a letter they wrote on Thursday.

photo by A.J. van der Wal

The asylum seekers had till Thursday 14:00, to accept the proposal of Mayor Eberhard van der Laan. Thursday morning they were given a tour of the building. In the letter to the mayor, they thank him for the offer, but explain they can not work on their future in a place that reminds them of the past. The prison triggers emotional responses and bad memories for many of the refugees, many of whom spent time in prison several times, in their homelands as well as in alien detention in the Netherlands.

The municipality is disappointed, and will answer the letter by return, according to a spokesperson. Wednesday, the group met with the mayor, who stressed the front door would remain open at all times, residents and volunteers with a pass would come and go as they please, and the building has a kitchen, team rooms, showers, and a gym available. Everybody would be able to have their own, lockable room, and counseling would be available to work on things, such as returning home or finding a useful pastime.

Another reason the refugees declined the mayor's offer is because 159 people registered at the Flight Church, where they were staying before. Meanwhile, some of the people left, but others also joined the group. That would mean that, on December 6, when they have to leave their current location, sixty of the group will be homeless. With that prospect in mind, they ask the mayor to find them a different location.