Put aside what the media is saying, forget what people think, good or bad, about the group of mainly Somalian rejected asylum seekers who cannot go back to their country, and ignore Sinterklaas, your gift giving urges, your ‘aah how sad, those cold asylum seekers’ and let me tell you what it’s like. This national drama is playing out 5 minutes from my warm office, so I gathered some food and beauty products for the women (more fearful of going out than the men) and took a walk.
There’s some snow falling from the sky on a dark and dreary Amsterdam day in December. A neighbourhood church abandoned for a long time is currently housing a group of about 30 asylum seekers who have exhausted their right to appeal. The church is just a cement block and it’s cold. There are tents being set up inside for the men and the women have separate quarters with beds. There are no children. The mood is neutral and grey, much like the inside of the church. Some Dutch women are serving hot soup, there’s a café bouncer at the door of the church to make sure the ‘wrong people’ don’t come in. There’s a Dutch girl bundled up in a chair next to him who I suspect is doing the Twittering. I run into an acquaintance bringing food.
I had a few laughs with one of the men heading out to the supermarket with a young Dutch woman and said he should tell her what he wants for dinner so they could get more rice and less macaroni. I wished him good luck and thought about coming by again, hopefully with more useful supplies.
Hr.Ms. Johan de Witt has captured two so-called whalers off the Somali coast last week. Whalers are “pirate motherships,” as Radio Netherlands says they are called, forward operating bases from which other pirate vessels are launched.
By using the troop transporter Johan de Witt, the Dutch navy is mimicking the pirates’ tactics: using a forward operating base from which to launch small vessels, in this case landing craft.
(Note the Obama flash light on the pirate vessel.)
By the way, what do you think of the ‘new’ logo (2000) of the Ministry of Defence (right)? On the one hand I feel it is boldly modern, on the other hand it doesn’t have the don’t-mess-with-us quality that the lions, eagles, swords and shields of yesteryear had. Bold, in other words, but the wrong kind of bold.
(Source photo: Ministry of Defence. In the photo one of the whalers is brought in by a landing craft.)
Utrecht-based, Benin-born filmmaker Didier Chabi made a simple film interviewing three Dutch guys of Somalian descent trying to explain in laymen’s terms why Somalian pirates keep attacking ships in the Gulf of Aden.
The film (in Dutch) raises some interesting questions: why shoot the pirates after they’ve been arrested? Is that really necessary? “They negotiate with captors of non African countries and don’t kill them when they are caught. But they shoot the Somalians. No one in the film understands why and label it racism.
One guy explains that the Spanish started fishing in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and dumping toxic waste, which resulted in them being attacked, or simply put, the Somalians defending themselves and their rights. Another simple reason for the piracy is that although Somalia has an advantageous geographical position, it hasn’t really led to any economic advantage for Somalians, a very poor African country.
No matter how reprehensible piracy is, it didn’t start in a vacuum, as the media tends to portray, according to the film.