“Dublin to (The) Gambia” has become so common that it is an infamous greeting among those at the AZC that come into conflict with the camp laws. In disgust, many respond to the COA officials that they would rather have their asylum redirected to a “Dublin to Gambia”.
Tuesdays are as good a day for fights at the camp. From minor brawls to knife chases and homophobic attacks. The male lovers next door can make all fidgeting noises as they figure out how and where to correctly insert their affections for one another, and in turns; and am expected as the rule in this country of all, to find ways to sleep. But in the process, I am boxed into trying to understand the difficulties that such a couple face and to face my own demons of disinterest in homosexuality.
Most of Africa has embraced backwardness in all its incarnations, except as long as it is homosexuality; condemning, exorcising and in fact killing this idea of a man in the body of a woman, or a woman in the body of a man, or a confusion between both extremes, will in the likeliest scenarios be celebrated.
My excuse is that, I have never had the pleasure of a gay couple making love in the next room. I was never prepared for this. Yet, am I not in a country where immigrants feel guided to a certain religion, sexuality, way of life, education, work ethic etc!
Getting an invite to participate in an Advisory Group (a member only group of asylum seekers, COA employees and Trigion security, that provide advice on issues affecting the camp and its inhabitants) at AZC Echt came with little surprise.
Large proportions of the camp either play war games in the computer rooms, learn Dutch so as to practice in Amsterdam brothels, or to impress upon employees of the camp, while most just smoke their days away. Eritreans and Syrians by far have taken to the Dutch language classes. Of course!
It might only be obvious if you understood the rate of asylum awards to these nationalities. They are guaranteed asylum, just by making that perilous journey across the Mediterranean or the very relationship they all claim to have with Aleppo! I have heard of scores of Eritrean asylum seekers who have rejected housing arrangements, because the offers didn’t meet their expectations.
An Eritrean elderly is afraid of electricity, flashing toilets, television, trains, language; while the young lads yearn for the city life…the sparks of urbanism. While the illiterate elderly husband with nothing to live for only but dreams of farm-lands.
Back to “Dublin to Gambia”. In one of the Advisory Group meetings, it had dawned upon us to make some commentary on the best acceptable likely punishment to inhabitants of AZC Echt; who among many failings would have not cleaned the kitchen.
The bar had been set very high, by all standards across the table. However, jokingly, though it wasn’t clearly very funny to us, the asylum seekers, one security officer had suggested a heightening of the monetary charge for any crimes on the camp. He proudly suggested a 50 Euro or so penalty.
Jokingly, the room seemed to laugh this rather serious supposition. I, for one, remained poignant that monetary penalties would never address the resistance. I added that, criminalizing failure to fulfil camp chores was likely to exacerbate an already fragile situation, where most at the camp are taken for idiots.
The moment camp inhabitants see uniformed men and women working round the clock to provide services; they notice a pattern of employment, survival, livelihood.
But again, these arguments have been out-rightly dismissed. Immigrant asylum seekers have no business with the complexities of systemic benefits to Dutch society, European governments of the migrant crisis. That asylum seekers and their-in deliberately prolonged stay in the camps are not in any direct way intended to partly address the unemployment gaps within Europe and in the European project. The level of consciousness in the camps may be dwarfed by the amount of idiocy and crime; this is not justification for the misdiagnosis therein.
But there are other aspects of this dilemma that often escapes the test of our times. Let us see that for a violent crime; an asylum seeker on asylum seeker crime is not prosecuted, because owing to the nature of the special police attentioned to the AZC populace, instead the guilty party, little investigated, is punished with expedited deportation as in line with their ‘Dublin’ asylum program.
The question begging is that, these criminal persons would in any case have to have been expeditedly deported to Germany, Italy or France. So for a knife attack, repeat attacks across the country at train stations and shopping malls; most of my colleagues are and can only be given warnings about possibilities of uncertainties with their asylum applications anywhere within the European Union.
What the police state system has deliberately ignored or forgotten is that the facts. We have seen far worse. Roving in Europe is a luxury. Most criminals have time on their side. And youthful criminal asylum seekers awaiting deportation and court appeals in their asylum processes, have a luxury of time. A time better spent testing the system. Either by mimicking a livelihood or sexuality they despise; but do it anyway. It is a good pass time. A monthly trip to Maastricht in the guise of a gay parade is an opportunity in itself. Bikes to steal, old women to snatch from, shops to lift from. An endless queue of opportunities. Crime.
The dilemma is also that these asylum seekers, including myself, guilty by association, as is the case: that we have rights and that a section of Dutch and European society can benefit in extending their interests, even if for the sake of academia; by appearing to advocate for the rights of criminals. This is not ordinary dilemma. Politics has understood this. Immigrant crime has been pivotal in the resurgence of Brexit and a renewal of British nationalism and identity. We soon forget that a project to dismantle the EU, has at its disposal the actions of a large mass of Muslims, Arabs, Africans who all play into all forms of phobia. Even gay Syrians are not as equal as Rotterdam (Indonesian) gay couple.
Back to ‘Dublin to Gambia’. He is from Yemen but claims to be of African descent. His asylum application has been rejected severally and he is due for deportation to Italy. He cries out that, he would rather go to ‘The Gambia’.
And if the recent elections results, transfer of power and the anti-clockwise actions of a 22 year long dictator are any litmus; I too would glorify a ‘Dublin to Gambia’, even if to stick fingers to the Dutch asylum process. Frustrations aside and all the well-meaning of the politics that has allowed us, the subjects of several experiments to grow into claiming rights, the reality is that emotions are boiling and a spill off effect is as close as ever.
When decent people are forced to ponder why they are hear, other than the facts of their case for escaping high probabilities of continued imprisonment, torture and consequential death; it is always a matter of time. A Timed bomb on continental Europe. The same Europe and its ambassador Angela Markel may find creative ways to pre-empt this demise, but the carrot and stick approach to needy asylum seekers is not as strong as it was previously researched.
So, how is AZC crime handled? Well, suspend the asylum seeker from the camp and thereby send them into more criminality with the view of making a further arrest and condemning such person into the realms of EU-wide criminality. And the first offence was likely failing to clean the kitchen in one section of a floor of the AZC. But we have not only suspended the guilty party, we also offer opportunities for retribution. So, we make deductions from their pay, or we simply suspend their weekly ‘subsistence allowances of €58.
But as these newly unleashed gang of criminals venture into Dutch society, whether to take temporary aboard with friends who already have asylum status, and this is commonplace with those same colleagues who faced the same predicaments and are now graciously invited to relieve their missed opportunities; it couldn’t be a more perfect Christmas gift. But like the law of nature, all the proceeds of thuggery must have their market.
AZC’s have never provided the best marketplace for stolen merchandise. And so the crime diminishes and rises along the way. Tuesdays are market days for all sorts of trade. Marijuana, designer clothing, jewelry. One renowned Albanian reject even offered to self a whole arm of lamb. All he wanted in return was €12. He got only five Euros.
Lastly, the idea of reporting these events crossed my mind. Not afraid of the consequences of disrupting the system at play, a system that allows a role for all that come into conflict with asylum seekers; I offered to better Dutch society. Of course I was conscious that my attempts were only a drop in the ocean.
Nonetheless, my offer was dumped in my face. As is the case, I am not allowed to provide any hard evidence about any criminal behaviour or criminality thereof. I can only provide an anonymous tip through a private hotline. Unless of course to their surprise that there are persons willing to come forward in the open about helping to make Dutch society safer in their small ways. My offer was rejected. And with a laugh. Yet I had just described in detail how a person whose room number I knew, whose full names and v-number I had memorized and whose crimes had littered my room for weeks and whose criminal proceeds was groundbreaking, to say the least, was actually in my room at the time, selling off items him and his gang had looted the same evening!
Back in my room, slightly nervous. My guests had piqued from the third floor window. They expressed wonderment about their host, who for some reason was attempting to speak with the police, uninvited. Luckily my sobriety had started to kick in. I had the last laugh in a mock story that the police had jokingly accused me of selling marijuana to under-aged children in the AZC, an accusation, I told my interrogative listeners that I had vehemently denied.
I was then offered a puff at the marijuana doing its third and final round. A small cough and I passed it on. A bicycle had been negotiated and sold. A camera with three lenses had been brokered. Watches and bracelets sold. Phones were the usual usuals.
My friend from Yemen left my room with a sobering remark; he wants a ‘Dublin’ to Gambia. The Gambians were stars as far as his circumstances were concerned. Sadly for him, while at the stadium, he was irrevocably informed that; with his beautiful curly hair and girly bodice, he would make a perfect replica of rape candidates in the capital Banjul. As surprise would have the final laugh; the new leadership of Gambia intends to reverse the decision by their dictator to pull out of the Den Haag seated International Criminal Court.
A ’Dublin’ to Gambia is not as prosperous a prospect after all. Many Gambians themselves remain cautious. As in the words of a prominent Gambian political and human rights activist, it is difficult to concede the defeat by Dictator Yahya Jammeh and to accept his unprecedented concession speech.
When all the dust settles; the question of following the Dutch protocol of criminal reportage remains an option but an elusive one. In contrast, inaction is as good as complicity, in some ways, to the sharing of spoils of a ‘Dublin’ gone all wrong.