A Modern Slave Adventure Into The Netherlands

Mohammed Marzouq Alsharefee
7 min readFeb 20, 2022

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The New Slaves In Kuwait

The year is 2019, Kuwait decided that my family are no longer stateless or what is called “Bedoon” (you can read more about Bedoon here) and that our roots belong to another country, even so my grandfather was born in Kuwait in 1913 and lived his whole life in Kuwait and so was my father and me.

It gets even weirder, all my grandfather brothers and sisters are Kuwaitis! Two of my uncles was in the Kuwaiti resistance when Iraq invaded, three of my uncles where taken prisoners by the Iraqi forces (different then the first two). We have no allegiance to another country except Kuwait, and they know it.

My grandfather Kuwaiti civil ID in 1959. In it The Kuwait government says he is Kuwaiti. Born in Kuwait in 1913.

Statelessness in Kuwait is literally modern slavery, you can’t vote, elect or be elected (even university elections), can’t own your own home/land, can’t open or be part of any business/shop, can’t go to public schools, can’t work in a government job, need a work permit to legally work in the private sector which most stateless people don’t know how to get, can’t get a scholarship in a private university, isn’t even allowed a maternity/parental leave if you are a woman, can’t even buy shares/stocks, can’t even register a patent, there was a time when I was a student and wanted to work as taxi driver to discover that stateless people aren’t even allowed to get a license to be a taxi driver, can’t travel unless they allow you to, which may take years, depending on the mood of whoever in charge. All this when we had a valid identification documents, AKA security cards, we don’t get to have a civil ID, just a security card. But now my family is no longer even allowed to have security cards.

Without a security card you have no human rights. You have nothing.

(On the left) My grandfather, Attalah Alshareifi. While working in Kuwait Oil Company. He worked there 30 years, from the 50s until the 80s.

We are owned by the state, they can choose if we are allowed to work, get health care, own anything, marry, go to schools, immigrate, have a bank account, etc. the government can even put us in prison indefinitely in the name that we are illegal residents and they want to send us back to our countries and since we are originally from Kuwait and they can’t send us anywhere, they can just keep us in prison for months without even a trail. Add to that, all the constant propaganda the government keep spreading about the stateless people which has increased the racism against us.

And so, to pressure us to “reveal our true citizenship” they frozen our bank accounts, took my father’s security card and thus denied him work, health care and all basic human rights that most citizens take for granted. Even charities are forbidden from supporting those without identification documents.

At that moment we decided its dangerous to remain in Kuwait as we are definitely next in line once they take our security cards and we need to leave ASAP before they revoke our travel documents that have taken us 3 years and our friends help to get hold of. Once our valid security card expires, that's it, my company will have a problem keeping me as I would become an illegal resident and no company would be allowed to hire me, especially in my case since I was working as contractor in Kuwait Air Force Headquarter which is a very secure place and no one can enter unless they have the proper papers.

Preparing For The Escape

The Shawshank Redemption

So, I researched the best countries in the world that have the most transparent government, least racism, not freezing and has a good education system for any future children that we may have and the Netherlands came up in many articles and thus we decided to choose the Netherlands.

Of course, applying for asylum from Kuwait wouldn’t work as I have already tried by contacting the Canadian embassy and the Dutch embassy in Kuwait. The Canadian embassy required a letter of our situation from UNHCR, and so I contacted the UNHCR office in Kuwait in 2014, in hope they would give me a letter that speaks about my situation. The UNHCR employee told me “We know of the Bedoon and the Palestinians situation but giving you such a letter would harm our diplomatic relationship with Kuwait.” In that year alone Kuwait donations to UNHCR was 100$ Million. So forget getting accepted for asylum from inside Kuwait.

And so, The only viable option to reach the Netherlands is to get some kind of a Visa and since there is no time as my security card was expiring soon and there were rumors about some Bidoons getting their travel documents revoked in the airport (which later was confirmed). The only fastest visa I could get my hand on was the tourist visa and so we applied and thankfully we were able to get the Schengen visa.

Made a research on what to do when applying for asylum in the Netherlands and the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) website in 2019 stated that I should apply the moment I arrive in the airport and shouldn’t wait. The website also stated that procedure will take 2 weeks except for exceptional cases. I naively thought we weren’t an exceptional case since our case was known to the whole world, or so I thought.

Since there is a chance our case will be rejected, I informed my work that I need a 2 week vacation and paid the landlord in advance so she doesn’t throw our stuff out in case we get rejected (it was already hard to get a landlord willing to accept a Bedoon tenant). This way if the Netherlands doesn’t want us then at least I would still have a job and we have a home to come back to, for at least for a few months if I am lucky and my job doesn’t terminate my contract immediately.

(This is stupid if you ask me, a person should be able to apply for asylum from their country without a letter from the UNHCR and without having to travel all the way to the new country, leaving their jobs, selling all their stuff and maybe even taking a loan to afford the trip, wait few months or maybe even years before getting a reply which maybe negative, and then what? Do they really expect people to go back? Especially if they were afraid of extreme racism, injustice or even death. It will be even cheaper for the new country as they wouldn’t have to take care of the people while they remain in their country. Well anyway…)

Leaving

Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

I informed my family and my wife informed her family. We said our goodbyes and went ahead with our flight. The journey was amazing as I have never traveled by plane before, but of course we were extremely worried as to what would happen to us the moment we apply for asylum.

Reached the Netherlands. Went to the police booth and applied for asylum. They took our passports and then took us to a small room and asked us a few questions then told us to wait in another waiting room while they searched our phones for some reason. I don’t remember this step being mentioned on the IND website, in fact even while I am writing this article I didn’t find any mention in the IND website about taking or searching through our phones. Was it even legal to search our phones without a warrant?

After a while, 2 police officers came and took us in a police van. I thought we would be released after the investigation or maybe be sent to a refugee camp, either way I had booked a hotel thinking that we will stay in our hotel until the IND gives us their reply after 2 weeks.

The police van reached a building with very high walls and electric wires on top of those walls. Turns out that these police officers are actually taking us to prison. Apparently if you apply for asylum before they stamp your passport in the airport in the Netherlands they take you to prison for absolutely doing nothing.

As the police car entered the prison and the big thick iron door was closing behind us I started thinking about my wife and what I did to her.

The Judicial Complex Schiphol, where we were imprisoned in. (Image Source)

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