Dutch media have not covered it, but Louay Al-Zekra is sitting in a jail cell in Rotterdam right now awaiting the court case deciding whether he will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands or be sent to a different country as a consequence of the problematic Dublin Regulation, which is making it increasingly difficult for refugees to find a place to settle and start rebuilding their lives again.
Louay Al-Zekra (25) was arrested on March 28th by Dutch authorities. Louay has been seeking asylum in the Netherlands for almost three years now, first applying on the 22nd of June in 2015. He fled Lebanon because of his sexual orientation – for which he was persecuted by Lebanese authorities, who take up homosexuality as a criminal offense in their Penal Code, punishable with a prison sentence of up to one year.
After the rejection of Louay’s first application for asylum in the Netherlands – in which did not state that his reason for applying was his persecution resulting from his sexual orientation because he did not know that this was a basis upon which one could apply for asylum in the Netherlands – Louay tried to do the same in Germany. After nine months of waiting for a response, he received the response that his application had, once again, been rejected. Consequently, he returned to the Netherlands to apply for asylum once more, now knowing that his homosexuality should lead to him finally being safe, for he would no longer have to fear the Lebanese authorities. After three months of waiting, however, Louay received the same response from Dutch authorities: his application was rejected, without even conducting an interview with him regarding his homosexuality. The official procedure in the Netherlands regarding refugees applying for asylum on the basis of being (in danger of being) persecuted for one’s sexual orientation, is to conduct an interview to determine whether the sexual orientation of these people is truthful and whether they are, in the case of homosexuality per example, ‘gay enough’.
Dutch authorities proceeded to deport Louay to Germany under the guise of the Dublin Regulation, a European Union law which states aims to “determine rapidly the Member State responsible” for an asylum claim, and which provides for the transfer of an asylum seeker to said Member State. Simply put: this law refers refugees to apply for asylum in the state in which they first entered the EU, which in Louay’s case is Germany. The Dublin Regulation makes it possible for a state’s authorities to send back any refugee to said country without even checking what consequences this will have for the refugee in terms of the rules and regulations in that country. Louay stated that, once he arrived in Germany, “the German police dropped [him] off on the street and refused to give [him] any guidance to the refugee camp. [He] found [himself] on the street, with no shelter and no money.”
What to do now? If he would be able to wait out 18 months, Louay could apply for asylum in the Netherlands again, the place he felt would be best off. He reasoned that there was no other safe place for him to stay than with a friend of his in the Netherlands, where he could ‘hide’ and wait out the time necessary. However, after a year he was arrested and sent to jail in Rotterdam by Dutch authorities. This brings us back to March 28th, where this article started.
SEHAQ Queer Refugee Group has written a statement demanding justice for Louay Al-Zekra. This statement can be signed by any organisation – whether oficially registered as such or simply having a big following – that wishes to support Louay in his fight for safety. Tomorrow in court, on the 10th of April, a decision will be made about Louay’s case. Tomorrow they will decide whether or not they will let Louay remain in the Netherlands, where everyone knows for sure he will be safe from Lebanese authorities wishing to send him to jail because of his sexual orientation, because of who he is. If you wish to support SEHAQ in their attempt to help Louay, click the link below to find their statement and their email address to which you can send your organisation or group’s name, which will then be added to the list of signatories and sent to Dutch authorities in hopes of Louay gaining access to the basic human right that is safety. You can also help by referring organisations you know to this statement.
SEHAQ’s email adress to which you can send your organisation or group’s name to support Louay’s residence in the Netherlands: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Helen Weeres