The dire situation of the Ter Apel refugee camp in the Netherlands has been in the headlines in recent weeks. All land asylum seekers in the Netherlands must first present themselves at this camp. On August 25 of this year, news broke of the death of a baby in the camp due to overcrowding and a lack of health facilities and medical care. At that time, 700 people were staying outside the camps in the surrounding area, and were not allowed to put up tents so that they could be recorded by surveillance cameras. The Dutch government promised to investigate the incidents. The plan to transfer asylum seekers to cruise ships anchored in city ports has angered the Dutch human rights organizations.
The report below showcases the experience of an Iranian refugee – a queer woman – about the situation in the Ter Apel camp. This testimony was written on September 15, 2022.
I wake up because I hear the crying of children. We are in a refugee camp in the northeast of the Netherlands.
We are in a sport hall. Maybe thirty or forty people. The children are hungry, cold and crying. They have given each of us a felt blanket, which doesn’t do much for the cold.
I see them; they are looking at the door, waiting for someone to call their name and for them to leave the hall. Each meal consists of a bread and cheese sandwich and a small packet of juice.
The children are screaming and the adults are confused. Those hoping for love and freedom, hoping for a better life, have given up everything and brought themselves to the territories of this absurd civilization. Those who have lost sight of life on this difficult path wonder, will there be a place for them in the West and North of the world?
A little further down, in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague, no one can even picture us – in colorful cities, in light and neon streets, in nightclubs, on red-light streets that have auctioned off pleasure.
This is an area far from the city. Deformed and sick immigrants should always stay away from the beautiful eyes of the northerners. No one here answers your questions. It is not known how many days we will stay here. The children are the weakest. They cry and the parents, unable to love, hold their heads in their hands and close their eyes while the world turns a blind eye to their suffering.
Several children have a constant cold and cough. I overhear a little girl saying to her mother: “Why are we not in Iran, mom? Buy a house and let’s go to Iran.”
There are some disabled people among us whose physical condition no one cares about. There is a strange smell in the air everywhere, the smell of the street, the smell of smuggled boats, the smell of fear of the police, the unpleasant smell of being cut off from the homeland.
I remember the words of the woman who came to Turkey, a Dutch senator, to investigate the situation of asylum seekers: “Don’t come, don’t immigrate, stay where you are, Europe has no more room.”
Yes, that is right. A wide and clear street for thirty European citizens, an empty and cold gym for fifty refugees; a luxurious and well-equipped apartment for each European citizen and six-meter rooms for six refugees; food that is always thrown away for European citizens and two meals of bread and cheese for immigrant children. That’s how everything is divided in such an unequal world.
I avert my gaze from the screen, in front of us two men are standing side by side praying, on the other side a child is staring at the basketball net, looking for the ball, and we, we are still waiting to be called and our existence to be recognized.