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This is a story from our archive.

E.M., a 33 year old refugee from Ethiopia, would rather not be in the news with his name. At the end of the conversation the reason why becomes clear. He has been imprisoned a few times, mostly because of lacking to have the right papers. That is why E. fears this will happen to him again and so he want to stay anonymous.

How do you experience your stay in the Netherlands?

I am in the Netherlands for 19 years already. I came here as a 14 year old boy, together with a travel companion, hoping for a new live. I have lived for two years in Zierikzee, a year in the refugee centre in Ter Apel and over ten years in Nijmegen. In that city I was stopped regularly by the police and then they asked for papers which I didn’t have. I have only been in Utrecht for the last two years. Luckily refugees are left alone here much more.

What have you discovered in the time of you being here?

It is difficult to make it in the Netherlands without residence documents. I can’t study, I can’t work even though I would love to. I once started an education for plumbing, but I could not finish it because I lacked the money. I wonder regularly: how much longer? My live here actually stands still. But I am glad that there is such a good healthcare in the Netherlands. For instance I got the right medication for epilepsy, which would have been way more difficult in Ethiopia.

What does Villa Vrede mean to you?

It is a place where I made friends, people that are going through the same as me. I enjoy meeting several Africans. We are all different, but in a way we are not, because we share the same problems and cherish the same hope.

Which talents do you have?

I love soccer, I enjoy doing it. Also I listen to music a lot, but I don’t play an instrument myself. I would like to work as a plumber or something like that, but I can’t.

What would you like to pass on to others?

Peace and love. We as humans are all one, wherever we come from. That is often forgotten.

What would you do if you were mayor of Utrecht or Prime Minister of the Netherlands?

I would propose new deals to refugees in the Netherlands who are overlooked. People like me who fall between the cracks. The newcomers are visible, but the ‘oldcomers’ like me are no longer visible by politicians. Luckily I have an asylum lawyer who gives me advice.

What is your hope for the future?

I hope I can stay here, find work and start a family. Which is better than waiting endlessly in a waiting room. I wish all the boys of Villa Vrede a good future. Sometimes it hurts when someone finally gets the residence papers, while I am without. But I don’t get angry. I keep hoping.

(Interview: Gottfrid van Eck, PR volunteer at Villa Vrede)