Peter R. de Vries



Enough is enough … The limit has literarily been reached for me.

I write this not only to refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced persons to encourage them, but also because I feel ashamed about the attitude of some our Dutch citizens towards these people; the way they speak and think about them.


Sometimes it seems that in public debate about the refugees it is no longer about people, but only about numbers, percentages, quotas and files. Often the refugee issue is discussed in a detached and intolerant tone of voice; like asylum seekers and refugees are profiteers who are here to seek fortune.


Sometimes I think we have lost sight of what terms like ’emergency’ and ‘help’ really mean since we became so prosperous after the second world war.

We are in the privileged position that we are not at war, don’t experience natural disasters or are not exposed to terrorism, rebellion or guerrillas on a daily basis.

Most of us don’t know from personal experience how good if feels it is when you receive help from others, to be offered a safe haven, when you are in distress.


The ironic consequence seems to be that the prosperous and privileged people find it difficult to help others.

tegenstandersAs if it was your own merit that you cradle is in the safe, protected Holland – and that therefore, it is also the fault of the refugee is that his cradle was in Somalia, Afghanistan or any other country that is in an unfortunate situation.

Strikingly the “Engelandvaarders” – Dutch refugees who managed to cross over to the UK during the war- are still being praised in the Netherlands and usually highly decorated.

But if you’ve managed to escape from Somalia, Congo, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan under precarious conditions and with much hardship – often leaving behind family, loved ones and possessions -, travelled thousands of kilometers to Europe, to the Netherlands, no medals will await you, but particularly exhaustive judicial procedures, long interrogations and a lot of cynicism and suspicion.


It has always amazed me how easily and lightly people condemn refugees about leaving their homeland; like it is a tempting challenge to build a new life in another country, with an incomprehensible language, different culture and a harsh climate. Like people just do that for fun…!

I have traveled extensively, and frankly, I have never encountered that judgemental attitude during my travels though poor countries.

If people have a choice, they choose pretty much all for a decent, happy life in their own country, with their own language and culture, with their own family and friends.

But people who leave their home country as refugees often have no choice, if they want to survive at least, be free, have access to food and medical care.


If they go on a two week holiday to the Costa Brava – yes on vacation, not ‘on the run’ – they are being waved off by family at the airport as if they are never coming back again. Their suitcase contains typical Dutch chocolate sprinkles, peanut butter and liquorice. At the destination they will only order Heineken Beer, because that is what they are familiar with.

At night they will also gather for dinner in a restaurant owned by a Dutch expat serving familiar Dutch food instead of trying out the local cuisine.

And on the return trip in the plane, they are imagining themselves arriving at home and first prepare a whole wheat sandwich with Gouda cheese, a glass of milk and craving herring with onions.

Shame on the asylum seekers and refugees who refuse to adapt… Development aid must be reduced, because it can be much better spent. And the borders should be closed because the ‘quotas have been reached’ …

These thoughts and opinions annoy me immensely.


I have often enough been in different places around the world to know how unpleasant it feels when you are not welcome; when people look at you with suspicion and you are excluded or discriminated against.

opvangAnd I was there with money in my back pocket, legal papers, perfect communication and the reassuring prospect that I would be comfortably flying home again soon.

And that is why I would like to emphasize that I have the upmost respect and admiration for those who have abandoned their homes in desperation for doom and disaster and are trying, with great difficulty, to build up a new life in a foreign country.

In my opinion they should never have to hide or be ashamed; they can be proud, with their heads held high, because what they have achieved, what they have defied and what they have sacrificed more than most of us would dare or could bear. That is something we should be more aware off…

That’s my two cents.

Peter R. de Vries


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