The migration crisis in Brussels urged Amée Zoutberg (2022 Sarajevo Fellowship) to take action. There, people without papers sleep on the doorsteps of some of the most renowned human rights organizations. In some parts of the city, the local government has even taken to sweeping the streets of its improvised housing – with the help of a garbage truck. The clear disparity between practice and preach calls for humanity to jump into action and help alleviate the suffering of thousands left out in the cold by our failed migration policies. Amée had set the bar high, but in the end had to focus her plans on caring for the target group’s most basic needs.
For her Action Project, Amée got in touch with several local government offices and NGO’s with hopes of establishing a more dignified form of housing for undocumented people. It became apparent that though many bureaucratic hearts were filled with compassion and care, there was no real policy in place. This also left little room for unilateral action. When Amée adapted her plans and re-pitched it to at least include language classes or education, there was no budget available. Contacting the (hard to reach) owners of a number of suitable and empty buildings also led to very few successes.
In the end, Amée decided to take matters into her own hands and settled on alleviating stress and insecurity in a more limited but more direct way. With the help of a few volunteers, she assembled 55 care packages that were disseminated amongst unhoused and undocumented people. These included basic hygiene products such as soap, tampons, and tooth brushes, tea, items of clothing, pen and paper, a note with help organizations and encouragement in 4 languages, and emergency products such as bandaids. The contents were based on recommendations by a friend who had been in a similar situation of vulnerability a few years before.
“In the end, with little private and public help, I decided to focus on helping unhoused people without papers in a more direct way. We managed to assemble 55 personalized care packages.”