An interview with Yusuf of We Are Here

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>> Yusuf, why did you offer a place to sleep to stranded refugees?
Yeah, you see, it is not good to sleep on the street.

>> I understand, but do you think you are the right person to offer this?
Well, actually it is the responsibility of the government. Or the gemeente. But you see – that is not easy. They also don’t provide us with good facilities. And it is cold – the weather is changing. So I was just trying to help. For me as a refugee I am always thinking about how to help the people.

>> So the people stayed in the Vluchttoren?
Yes, some people came. They sleep here one night, then they go back to the train station. To ask asylum.

>> They were going to do what you did many years ago?
Yes, I asked asylum in Ter Apel.

>> Do you feel connected with the people who arrive?
Sometimes we have to feel each other – it is the same problem we have it. You run for your life. If you are coming somewhere you don’t know anybody, it is very frustrating.

It was difficult for me. When I came to Amsterdam I didn’t know anybody – I was sleeping in the Vondelpark. The true things I was passing through in this country was more frustrating. You feel like you are all alone in this world.

And if you are running away from war, it is hard. And to leave everything behind…

>> Some people say the new refugees are the real refugees…
For me it’s like – the people don’t know the reality. If there is a problem or your life is in danger, you run. It is very important that people think about this. What would you do?

I ran away from war in Somalia. A lot of things happened. Al Shabab made a big problem in my city.

At that time I was traveling alone. From my home town I crossed the sea and went to Kenya. From there I came to the Netherlands.

I am a refugee, but they did not believe me.

>> How does that feel?
I was really, really frustrated. You are not supposed to be here. But you can also not go back. Most of the refugees from We Are Here cannot go back. They already tried to deport them, but because of the situation in their countries, they cannot go. But still they cannot get a life here. They have to find a solution. Not just to say something that doesn’t help.

>> What would be the solution?
I always focus on humanity. People need humanity. There are many points. They should look at what is the problem in the place the people come from. To give status to people who cannot go back. And at least to give work permits to survive. So we do not have to wait for the charity. We want to pay taxes! The government also has to look for these people. Not only to the people from Syria. We are all refugees.

>> What do you want to say to the arriving refugees?
I have important things to say to my brothers who are coming here. When you come the first time- you think they are good people but sometimes they change. They ask you about the map and they find many tricks to ask questions that you cannot answer. Then people say you are not real refugees. Only because you cannot prove it or you give the wrong answers. The first time they threat you good – all these bad things come to you after they reject you. Ah… there is always good and bad in the people…

>> Is there anything else you want to say?
Yes… Everybody is welcome! The Netherlands is big enough. We are a family you know.

>> Yusuf starts to laugh his welcoming laugh:
Iedereen is van de wereld en de wereld is van iedereen. Welcome refugees!

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