Zahraa’s last hope: the dark side of the Dutch asylum policy

Zahraa’s last hope: the dark side of the Dutch asylum policy

Dutch asylum policy has become stricter, leading to the fall of the government in early July. The reception of refugees has been scaled down under pressure from the right wing for years, with significant consequences. Nineteen-year-old Zahraa Almari is one of many who have felt the impact of this policy. 

Picture taken by Zaharaa’s dad, during the flight to the EU

Zahraa fled from Baghdad to the Netherlands with her parents, younger sister, and aunt. “When we narrowly survived a bomb attack in Baghdad, my parents decided to leave. Far away from the danger the fear and the hopeless life in times of war“. After a long and dangerous journey by boat, they arrived in 2015 at the Ter Apel registration centre in the Netherlands. “Like many other refugees, we applied for asylum but lacked documents to prove our origin in Iraq“. Their hope for peace in the Netherlands was shattered.

“We are being shuttled from one asylum center to another by the Dutch government”, Zahraa

Since applying for asylum, Zahraa has been moved to 14 different centres and told three times that she has been tried out. In April of this year, she appealed to the court in Den Bosch. She claims to have been Westernized and that there is no life for her back in Iraq. The case has been referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg because the Dutch court couldn’t find an answer to the question of what to do with Westernized children.

“For over three months I have been waiting anxiously for a decision that will determine my fate“. Despite her uncertain situation, she is working toward a future in the Netherlands. “I have been studying to become a beautician for the past two years. Additionally, I volunteer and translate Arabic at the asylum centre”. Frequent moves between centres prevented her from building a stable future. “I have faced multiple bouts of depression and had to end numerous friendships. Every time I  settled somewhere, my contract was terminated, and had to pack up all my stuff to start over somewhere else“. She often had to abandon her studies because the situation made focusing impossible. “After nine years, I still live together with my family. Often we find ourselves in a small room with no privacy”.

Despite the hardships and injustices, she has faced, Zahraa continues to fight for her status. She openly shares her life in the centres, her struggles with depression, but also what gives her hope and keeps her going. ” I have a deep affection for the young children in the asylum centres. I play a lot with them and comfort them when they are sad. I recognise myself in these children, and it is a source of solace for me to be able to do something for them“. To draw attention to the situation, she and many other refugees are in, she shares her story with various Dutch media and talk shows. “I believe that refugee children are sometimes overlooked and do not receive the care and help they need. I hope to prevent young refugees from experiencing the same hardships I have endured by sharing my story”.

{The EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) reports a 28% increase in asylum applications in the first half of 2023 compared to 2022. The highest number since 2016. The Dutch government expects more than 50,000 refugees to seek asylum. This surge has resulted in a 34% increase in the number of pending cases. EU countries are struggling to cope with the growing influx of migrants. The EUAA also warns that by the end of the year, asylum applications could potentially exceed one million}.

About The Author

Stanzen Jelsma

Passionate, reflective, honest