Amer A. Omar, a refugee from Somalia, turned the key into the door of his new house in the city of Oss for the first time. I was privileged to part of his special day.
Renzo, my host, is a volunteer with the Vluchtelingen Nederland Werk (V.V.N.), an organization for refugees.
He was to meet the train carrying Amer to the Oss station a little after 10 o’clock. Renzo said about ninety-nine percent of the people do not arrive on time, so it wasn’t a surprise when Renzo came back to the car where I waited, to tell me that he learned by phone call that he would arrive on the next train.
So the next train arrived and Renzo came back to the car with a young woman on a bicycle, and two young Somalian men.
Selena Schouten, an intern, with the prettiest green eyes, from the Avans Hogeschool in Den Bosch, studying social work, accompanied Renzo and the two men through the process required for refugees.
Ahmed M. Omer, also from Somalia, is the cousin of Amer and, with fluency in Dutch, translated some of the days’ necessary business to Amer. Ahmed has lived in the Netherlands for several years.
Amer, Ahmed and Selena sat in the back seat, while I sat in the front listening to the process they would be going through with today as day one. Day two would be tomorrow.
First off, we all went to the Brabant Wonen – a house renting agency, where he learned he would be able to move into the house in two weeks, and he signed a contract.
The next step was at the town hall where he learned what the financial arrangements would be. He learned that as a single man, he would net 883 euros a month, and from that he would pay everything – rent, utilities and a 4,300 euro loan that would be payable for 50 euros a month for 36 months. That money is used for furniture, refrigerator and all that is needed to set up housekeeping.
“You’re obligated, by the government, to have an insurance, and he must pay that himself, as well,” Renzo said.
He also receives 1,300 euros for food for the first month before his monthly income is received. This is a gift, and is not required to pay back.
The third stop was the refugee center where we met with another volunteer, who is also from Surinam. This office does what they can to help the new refugees integrate into the city and country.
Then the fourth stop was at a bank where he learned about the loan and his responsibility for it. He requested that he receive the internet which the bank would take care of, within the new account.
Then…the fifth stop was the best.
Amer was given the keys to his new home.
He opened the door to his new home and said he felt very happy. He has a new life.
There are some requirements refugees must fulfill before becoming a Dutch citizen. Some of those are to meet all the requirements, be an honorable person in his new country and learn the language. He has one year to learn the language, and then he must search for a job.
Renzo, when asked about the general feelings about the business of giving money to refugees, he said, that it is mostly considered an act of kindness and necessary to help people who are in need of leaving a war-torn country.
People trying to get into the country for economic reasons, are not warmly received.
Renzo said that the past three years, the Dutch government arranged a quick assessment as to the refugee’s status. Prior to that, there was a fault in the system and if someone was not legal, and stayed without a legal card, it took years to fix that.
Now, the government says, “you have a chance to stay here, and abide by the rules.” They now have two months to get everything in order, just as Amer did today.
Renzo, as a volunteer for several years, said about volunteering, “If volunteers everywhere in the Netherlands said, ‘I will no longer do it’ then the whole Dutch economy is dead.”
I must say it made me happy to see the process and how one young man’s life just today, changed for the better.