“Locked up or on the streets – there’s no difference.”
Tareq left Iraq due to the danger in his region. His asylum claim was dismissed, because the situation in that region of Iraq was not considered sufficiently dangerous. Tareq was detained twice, but as he does not have a valid passport, repatriation to Iraq is impossible. The second time Tareq was detained was because the Immigration Office thought he might be Turkish, although there had never been any doubt about his identity during the asylum procedure. When it was confirmed that he was definitely from Iraq, he was released. Six years after his arrival in Belgium he is still undocumented, dependent on the income of his girlfriend and without any hopes of a future.
From Iraq to a Belgian detention centre
Tareq: I came to Belgium six years ago, in 2007. I used to live near Kirkuk; we had many problems over there. Shiites and Sunnis, the Kurdish population…many people died. I applied for asylum two days after my arrival, but my claim was rejected because they didn’t believe my story. They said that when I left Iraq, the situation in the north wasn’t dangerous yet. My lawyer lodged an appeal, which was dismissed. When I applied for asylum the second time, I was sent to a detention centre. They tried to send me back to Iraq at that point, but as I didn’t have a valid passport I couldn’t be sent anywhere.
Life in detention
The detention centre was really dirty. It was small and security never came in to talk to us. People disrespected each other there; there were a lot of arguments, a lot of fights. That’s what happens when you put a lot of people together. It was difficult for me there because I couldn’t talk to anyone; nobody spoke Dutch, not even the social workers. I never knew what was going on. I stayed in the centre for almost three months, and one day they suddenly said ‘you’re free to go’. I asked the social workers where I was supposed to go, where I was supposed to sleep, but they told me they couldn’t help me.
I ended up staying with friends for several years. Luckily they took care of me. I couldn’t work because I didn’t have any papers – I couldn’t do anything. Three years ago, I met my Belgian girlfriend. I live with her now. At the end of 2012, I was arrested after the police stopped me on the street and asked to see my ID. I didn’t understand why; I hadn’t done anything wrong. They sent me to another detention centre, which was better than the first one. The social workers also spoke Dutch; I could ask them for news about my case – which I did every day!
Five weeks later I was released. Apparently, they’d contacted the Turkish embassy because they didn’t even believe I was Iraqi. The Turkish embassy told them I wasn’t Turkish, and then the Iraqi embassy confirmed I was from Iraq, but they refused to repatriate me.
Securing the future…
Girlfriend: His lawyer will now apply for regularisation again. That’ll be the fourth time; the other claims were all dismissed because he doesn’t have a valid passport. We also plan on legally cohabiting together, but I have to turn 21 first. As he’s already living with me they can’t just take him away. If we were to live together on paper he might have a chance of getting a residence permit.
…and living in fear
Tareq: But to do all that, I need a valid passport. I’ve contacted the Iraqi embassy in Brussels but they don’t want to give me one. I’m scared; scared that the police will arrest me again. I can’t go back to Iraq, I have problems there. I wish I could go back but I can’t. It’s hard living here without papers… Locked up or on the streets, there isn’t any difference. It’s been six years and still I can’t do anything. I’ve lost everything – but what for?
6 years in Belgium
Still undocumented and unreturnable for administrative reasons