Abdi Hakin Diriye-Nuur
It is my freedom to take pictures

As a member of the We Are Here collective,
I aim to capture the daily life of
undocumented refugees in Amsterdam.

Abdi Hakin Diriye-Nuur

Since 2013, I have been part of the We Are Here collective, and a member of its Somali subgroup. We Are Here is a collective of undocumented people based in Amsterdam, who are fighting for better treatment of refugees living in the streets.

Refugees all over the world have one thing in common: a refugee is someone who needs help, who lost everything, and is trying to save their life. We crossed from border to border to save our lives.

When we say ‘we are here’, it means that we need help in order to live a normal life. The government of the Netherlands does not allow me to stay here. I did not get protection status. Twice they tried to send me back to Somalia, but with no success. They did not give me shelter either: they simply threw me on the street.

Together with twelve of my fellow We Are Here members, we started the ‘We Are Here Media Group’ in the beginning of 2016. We need to share with Dutch society how we live here. One cannot accept a situation like ours. That’s why I decided to become a photographer. To show this situation, my daily life, the life of undocumented people. Moreover, being a photographer has nothing to do with having documents or not. It’s my freedom to take pictures.

Abdi Hakin Diriye-Nuur is a photographer currently based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is part of the We Are Here Media Group (http://wijzijnhier.org/who-we-are/) which is supported by Here To Support (http://heretosupport.nl). The We Are Here Media group resides in one of the current We Are Here buildings, De Vluchtmaat (http://vluchtmaat.nl/). The original concept of the housing situation in the building has now resulted in a nomination for the Dutch Design Award (http://www.dutchdesignawards.nl/en/gallery/habitat/vluchtmaat).

Right: Demonstration organised for the four-year anniversary of the We Are Here collective. Demonstrators stop in the middle of the city in front of the ‘iAMSTERDAM’ statue, a slogan introduced by the ‘Amsterdam Marketing’ foundation responsible for the city’s commercialisation. The banner held by the protesters reads: ‘SHAME! Amsterdam throws 140 asylum seekers out in the streets. SHAME’. Amsterdam, September 2016.

‘I want a normal life’. We Are Here demonstration, Amsterdam, September 2016.

‘I cannot live in the street’. We Are Here demonstration, Amsterdam, September 2016.

Getting ready to leave the former squat and move to the next. Amsterdam, May 2016.

Top: Parking lot in front of a former We Are Here squat. Members of the collective taking a break during their move to the next squat. There are about 300 undocumented people who are part of the We Are Here collective now. Most of them have lived in several squats in Amsterdam throughout the years. Amsterdam, May 2016.

Right: The BBB is located at the far outskirts of Amsterdam. In the beginning they gave us public transport tickets to enable us to travel to the city and prevent us from hanging around the building, all day waiting for the moment we could go back in. But we do not receive tickets anymore. Now we have to bike. My knee, upper leg, and hip were badly broken a few years ago. My doctor wrote a medical indication stating I am not allowed to bike, asking the BBB management to take that into account. But the BBB manager told me: “We cannot accept this”. Now I walk. From the BBB to the city centre takes me about one and a half hours. Amstelveen, June 2017.

In the squatted building of We Are Here, you can stay for maybe one or two months. In that sense it is temporary, but at least you can stay there all day. In the BBB you have to leave every morning, but at least I can shower and wash my clothes. I still cannot cook what I want, I cannot sleep when I want, I cannot wake up or go out when I want. Being a photographer, I now take pictures of this situation, our situation: a negative situation. In the future I hope to take pictures of a normal life.

At the moment, I stay in the BBB, ‘Bed, Bad, Brood’ which translates as ‘Bed, Bath, Bread’. BBB is a night shelter where we are allowed to sleep during the night. It is an arrangement offered by the municipality of Amsterdam, and is supposed to provide basic needs. We now stay there with more than 90 people.

Most of our stuff is stocked in a general stock room because the shared rooms are too small for everyone to have all their belongings with them. They wake us up by knocking on our door at 7am. Then we get ready to take a shower and join breakfast. Breakfast and lunch together consists of a maximum of three sandwiches per person with a bit of cheese on them. It’s up to oneself whether one eats them all at breakfast, or saves some for later.

At 9am everybody must leave the building. We must all return before 4pm. If I want to arrive later, I must make a call to ask for permission, for a maximum of three times a week. At 6pm dinner is served. One plate a person. One of the managers recently told me: “We know you took the pictures”, reminding me of the fact that we are not allowed to take pictures inside of the BBB. But I asked him, “Why not? I live here!”.

Amstelveen, July 2016.