In this tree
The waiting game
Carve my name
In strains of numbers
On virgin white paper
Carved in their own words. The unkown authors of Ter Apel.
All along the road adjacent to the asylum center at Ter Apel are rows and rows of birch trees. Etched in the bark you can find names, short messages, slurs, taunts, and dates. Each is marked by refugees and migrants awaiting their turn to be processed. A time-expensive procedure that’s already strained as is.
Ever since the start of the war in Ukraine, the IND (Dutch National Immigration & Naturalisation Service) failed to deal with the larger influx of migrants. For weeks on end, new arrivals sleep outside the gates of Ter Apel. On the ground, you can feel tangible frustration. Talking to the people there I sense quiet desperation all around. Some have been sleeping outside for close to a fortnight side by side underneath tarps set up by the Red Cross or between small heaps of trash by the road. Unsurprisingly, hygiëne practice is poor at the moment. The eight portapotties placed next to the improvised sleeping facilities reek. One migrant I spoke to was on his way to relieve himself in the woods, stating: ‘’that is much more preferable than those toilets there.’’ Even more damning is the drug and alcohol abuse in/around the asylum center. It is a hard fact to stomach seeing substances trading hands right next to young children. Children living with their families among large pockets of men between the ages of 20 - 35. Stating the situation in Ter Apel as: ‘’less than ideal’’ would be the understatement of the year. The Netherlands is currently experiencing a refugee crisis unseen in recent history. And all along the road sitting and waiting is the living proof.
On Tuesday, July 19th I visited Ter Apel in my home country of The Netherlands to see firsthand a crisis that has been slowly stirring for months. Like in Calais & Dunkirk half a year prior I talked with proud and talented young people. People who will risk a whole lot for a better life. But in return find obstacles. Obstacles like walls, fences, bureaucracy, and short-mindedness.