Do you even exist without a passport? // 2019

A stateless person is someone who is “not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law”. It means that you belong nowhere and that you can’t qualify for things like school, insurance, healthcare, residence permits or a house. You can’t marry or travel and if you have children, you pass on your statelessness to your children. You are a ghost, you are not heard by the authorities and the government. There are millions of stateless people all over the world, of which children are the most often victims.

In my hometown I met the sisters Siham and Chaimea. They were both stateless up until their 18th birthday and I had the opportunity to have an interview with them about statelessness. They were born and raised here in the Netherlands. The biological parents of Siham and Chaimea are stateless and when the family came to the Netherlands a judge decided to separate Siham and Chaimae from their parents because they couldn’t care for the children. The parents were unable to stay in the country because they didn’t have a ID card or passport. Siham and Chaimea got split up in different foster families. They also didn’t have a passport so it was very hard for them to get healthcare, insurance, education and a residence permit. You can’t sign up anywhere without your citizen service number and the government isn’t that helpful from what I understood from the sisters. So that makes you a ghost in between the society. Luckily they received their passport when they turned 18. 

I decided to translate this interview into an information board for the city office here in Roosendaal, because people there wait fifteen minutes to renew their passports. I found the contrast between waiting fifteen minutes or years very confronting. Sometimes it is equally good to consider that you have this life thanks to your identity and passport.