Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Dutchman in Morocco

When he was nine his father took him with the rest of the family from the Netherlands to Morocco. At the age of 17, he returned to the Netherlands as an illegal immigrant, and was deported seven years later. The only thing Mohammed wants is to live in the land of his birth – the Netherlands.
"What am I doing here? I’m a Dutchman. Even the people here call me a Dutchman," says the 26-year-old Mohammed Htitich in desperation.
Mohammed works as a builder in a small village close to the Moroccan seaside town Al Hoceima. He works from seven in the morning till five in the evening for ten euros per day. He doesn’t have a house; he sleeps in a room of a house owned by a friend from the Netherlands. Every day Mohammed asks himself what he has done to deserve punishment.
"I think of the Netherlands all the time. When I wake up in the morning I start to cry, just like a woman."
Mohammed was born in 1984, as a late arrival in a Moroccan family in The Hague. At a particular moment, his father decided that he’d had enough of the Netherlands. With a good pension, he left on his 60th birthday together with his wife and went back to Meknes in Morocco. Mohammed was nine years old at the time. As the only minor in the family he had to go with them. But he couldn’t settle in Morocco. He left home and started living rough on the streets. Mohammed continued to dream of the Netherlands, and when he was 17 he decided to come back as an illegal immigrant.

In the Netherlands, he tried as hard as he could to make a living, which involved taking black market jobs. He went to Delft to live with his Dutch girlfriend, and they had a daughter, Fatima Zahra. But life in his beloved Netherlands was far from easy. His brothers and sisters, who all remain living in the Netherlands, disowned him because he had fathered a child out of wedlock, which is forbidden in the Qu’ran. “They called my daughter Fatima a 'whore daughter'", says Mohammed bitterly.
Also his attempts to gain legal status through a lawyer were unsuccessful. In 2007, he was arrested on the street by the police. He spent a year locked up, first on a detention boat in Rotterdam, then in a prison in Zeist. In December 2008 he was expelled. For the second time in his life, he had to leave the Netherlands under duress. On the aircraft his frustrations got the better of him. He assaulted a stewardess and tried to cut his wrist. In the Netherlands that he had left behind, the incident was reported in the newspapers.

Angry at the Netherlands

Mohammed doesn’t have a good word to say for Morocco, where he has lived for nearly two years. “Here it’s worse than prison,” he says. He’s also angry with his father, with whom he no longer has contact.
"He had the choice of returning to the country of his birth, but what about me?"
But Mohammed is especially angry with the Netherlands.
"I was born in the Netherlands and grew up there. I’ve lived most of my life there. They should treat me justly!"
In the summer the village where Mohammed lives fills up with Dutch people of Moroccan origin, who come to enjoy their vacation and display their wealth. Mohammed has a lot of friends amongst the holidaymakers. Isn’t he jealous when he sees his friends come from the Netherlands with luxury cars and expensive clothes? The bitterness drains from Mohammed’s eyes.
"No, definitely not. I’m not a hater. If I see a Moroccan with a beautiful car, it makes me happy!"

Mohammed still has a glimmer of hope. He plans to apply for a so-called temporary residence permit, in order to come back to the Netherlands legally. But the question is whether his application will be successful.

Day Opening - August 18