Norway's paperless Palestinians
My appeal is simple: We paperless deserve a life.
It is not common for an Arab woman to go public with personal details about her life, but I've been brought up to think of myself as a human being worthy of respect. I have also done it to avoid the worse. Therefore I have chosen to tell openly how it is to live as an undocumented in Norway.
I decided to seek help by going openly and tell my story in case the Norwegian authorities would continue to insist rejecting my family's asylum application. I'm glad I did. Many have shown solidarity with me and my family, many have encouraged us not to give up, and that we must continue to share our concerns and our fears with others.
When I came in contact with the Palestinians who live in a tent camp outside the Jacob Church in Oslo, I felt almost a little relieved because I was not alone. I was not the only one with concerns, the only person who were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, without a clear vision of what the future have been hiding for us. I was not the only stateless persons who had come here with an education, and work experience to see all my dreams of shattered in front of my eyes, my ambition to show both the Norwegians and myself that I can be a good citizen no matter where I live, doing that with my university degree, my work experience and a big smile on my face. Among the residents in the camp there are engineers, doctors, lawyers and journalists with the same broken dreams.
There are more than 10,000 paperless in Norway, including children and women who are denied their basic human rights, this fact encouraged me to speak out, to be one of the voices that demand justice for them and me, or at least decent living conditions. I do not want to end up as one of the women who are forced to share a bed with a man she has nothing in common with, just to ensure a roof over her head, or to work illegally to get her next meal. If I am not mistaken, we live in 2011 and not in the dark ages, where women were worth nothing and were sold like commodities.
The fact that I was undocumented forced me to think about a hundred different questions. I began to ask myself what will be next for me, my mother and my sister? Should I move into the tent camp and be protected by the men there? Can I avoid being placed in a boarding house for asylum seekers? Why I'm forced to become a criminal, illegal immigrant while I tried my best to avoid this?
Should I just give up and wait? In short: What should I do?
International Organization for Migration (IOM) has sent me a letter that they can not help me return to the United Arab Emirates, where the place of Immigration Appeals Board has asked me to go back to. Also all my personal efforts to travel back have failed. So here I am, an illegal immigrant, deprived of all rights, while I wait for the immigration police every second to knock on my door. I have no right to work so I can help myself and my family. I simply do not have permission to live a normal life as a person and a human.
I still hope that someone can clarify this for me: According to the Norwegian authorities are "paperless" people who have chosen to live this way. They have a country to return to, but they chose not to go there, or they hide their real identity. The Norwegian authorities will continue to push them until they break down and go back. However, what about us Palestinians? I have given all the documents I can to prove my identity. I have given all possible information to clarify my past, so nobody can make me a criminal. I simply do not have any land to return to, no country that will accept me as their "own", so in addition to being paperless, I am also stateless.
Should I be denied the opportunity to a warm home simply because I am a Palestinian born in the wrong place at the wrong time? I see in fact no other errors I have made that I should deserve to be punished for, and should I be denied access to medical care if I get sick, as they did with the young Palestinian man in camp who tried to burn himself alive. I feel as a superfluous person, a second-class human being, just because I am missing a piece of paper. Is this really the way people are supposed to treat each other in 2011, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 15 clearly states that everyone has the right to a nationality?
Whom should I turn to for justice? I have addressed myself to the Norwegian government for protection and been honest and open about all the circumstances that forced me to seek asylum here, and yet I got off. I have contacted many NGOs that have made it clear that as long as I am in Norway they cannot help me. None of them proposed a place I can actually go to.
The last arena I can address myself to is you, as a newspaper reader, as a fellow humans and Norwegian citizens, I ask you to show active solidarity with the Palestinians and other undocumented in Norway. I ask you to talk to the responsible politicians and challenge them on why they do not they do anything to protect these vulnerable people. I ask you to appeal to the Prime Minister and the Justice Minister’s human side; I think the people are my safe cards. My appeal is simple: We paperless deserve a life. It is not my fault that I was born without a country. Similarly, it is not the paperless kids’ fault that they have been born in Norway of parents who may have made some bad choices in life, or whom have been forced by circumstances to run away for their lives.
As Palestinians, we know something about injustice. We know the Israeli injustice. We are familiar with the injustice of the Arab countries. Now we have also become acquainted with Norwegian injustice. What we still hope for is to learn something about, empathy and solidarity of the Norwegian people.
Published in Dagsavisen debate pages on the same day.