“When we signed, we thought we would be released,” said Hamza.
Rabat – The Netherlands held Ahmed, Omar, and Hamza, three Moroccan hip-hop dancers for at least five days in a detention center for undocumented migrants in Rotterdam. The artists, aged 20 and 21, had come to the Netherlands for a dance event.
Maria Daif, former head of the Touria and Abdelaziz Tazi Foundation and of l’Uzine—the cultural center in Casablanca where the dancers rehearse—published the story of their “misadventure” yesterday on her Facebook account.
The artists arrived at the Eindhoven airport on January 10, according to Daif. The immigration officer asked them about the reasons for the trip, their place of stay in the Netherlands, and how much money they were carrying. The three had about €300.
Dutch immigration held them on the grounds of “lack of means of subsistence and lack of evidence of the reasons for their travel.” A foreigner visiting the Netherlands should be carrying €34 a day, according to Schengen Visa Info.
“Their return air tickets are paid and scheduled for January 17 (Hamza and Omar) and 22 (Ahmed),” said Daif.
‘I am not a criminal’
Daif related that the officer made them wait several hours in an office where other officers interviewed them. Immigration officers searched the artists and then transferred them to a police station outside the airport where they were asked intrusive questions.
“Are you suicidal?” police wanted to know. “Have you ever had sex?”
“They sign documents in Dutch that they don’t understand: ‘We were scared. When we signed, we thought we would be released,’” Daif narrated. “I am not a criminal, I am an artist,” Daif quoted Hamza.
Police then put the three artists were then put in a van and transferred to a detention center for illegal immigrants in Rotterdam. Despite having visas, Omar and Hamza were held until January 15 and Ahmed until the 17th.
“They did not know how long they would stay there,” reported Daif. Ahmed and Hamza, the youngest, were locked in one cell and Omar in another.
The young men could leave their cells except between noon and 2 p.m. and then again over night starting at 10 p.m.
Locked up for 5 days
At the detention center, Hamza, Omar, and Ahmed called their families and l’Uzine.
On January 12, they met a court-appointed lawyer. The lawyer asked general questions about their planned stay in the Netherlands and promised to come back the next day. The lawyer did not return, however.
Made aware of the case by l’Uzine, a Moroccan senior official visited the artists on January 13. The official informed them that they would be sent back to Morocco but was not sure when.
On January 15, Hamza and Omar, but not Ahmed, were again loaded into a police vehicle, each locked in a box, and transferred to the post in Eindhoven and then to the airport.
They waited several hours in the vehicle before being handed over to a Ryanair flight crew on a plane heading to Marrakech.
In Marrakech, Ryanair delivered them to the local authorities upon landing. “We crossed the entire airport accompanied by police officers, as if we were dangerous criminals. Everyone at the airport was watching us.”
Omar and Hamza ended up at the Marrakech police prefecture where police interrogated them at length before releasing them.
“On January 17, Ahmed undergoes the same treatment,” Daif concluded in her Facebook post.
Omar and Hamza are members of the Lions Crew collective. The group is not unknown; the New York Times published an article featuring the group in May.
Last year, Daif boycotted the Moussem Cities Festival in Brussels to protest the reduced mobility of Moroccan artists in Europe.