‘Experience what it’s like to be a refugee’ is how the Humanity House Museum, funded by the Red Cross, is billed. Of course, that’s more of an interest stirrer than a fact, as it’s an experience I’ll (hopefully) never know nor understand. The interactive museum, however, is still very much a must-visit in The Hague, giving a little insight into the reality many tragically face.
In August last-year at Edinburgh Festivals, I watched a play called How not to Drown – the writer and the lead actor Dritan stood on stage and shared his true story as a child refugee from Kosovo. Packed onto a boat as a teen from Albania, his family waved him off in hopes for a better life.
My privilege allowing me to worry about having two citizenships, while the stories downstairs often had none
What struck me the most about his story, and Humanity House, was how little of the overall picture the journey is. In the western media, we are often struck by the treacherous travel, often by over-capacity boats that refugees take, but the coverage stops once dry land is reached. The never-ending re-allocation of foster parents, the eternal journey to gain a passport, the reality of never speaking to your loved ones again; the truth is that while the immediate danger might be over when you reach a new land, safety and security is still far from achieved.
On entering Humanity House you are issued with your Red Cross ID, as if you don’t have a passport, this becomes your only reference as a human being. In a hallway with rows upon row of folders, you can place your registration letter; perhaps, if you are lucky, the Red Cross can use this to locate and reconnect you with your family eventually.
What would I do without a passport’ – it’s a question that would haunt me, and my privilege, throughout the weekend
‘What would you do if you had a passport?’ was one of the questions that struck me most after completing the interactive part of the museum and arriving at a selection of stories told by refugees that now call The Hague home.
“Stay calm for the rest of my life, and my children would be safe. That’s a hard question; I’ve never had a passport all my life” was an answer by Aham, a Palestinian who sought refuge in Syria before eventually coming to The Netherlands. As a Palestinian, a non-state not recognised by the UN, Aham can’t have a passport, so he can’t have a Dutch passport, and he can’t ever be a citizen. He has temporary residency but then what happens if that ends? It’s a life I could never imagine.
This is an excerpt, read the entire text on Dan’s blog Dan Flying Solo.
©Dan Flying Solo
Pictures: Dan Flying Solo