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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Somalia: European Passports for Sale in the Hague

Kassim Mohamed                                                                               21 June 2011

The Hague — Every year, thousands of troubled Somali immigrants travel through hostile terrain to escape conflict. Most of them end up in European countries, like the Netherlands, where some are granted asylum while others are not so lucky. The lucky ones, however, find a more welcoming environment in criminal syndicates.
25-year-old Ali Mohamed arrived in Rotterdam via Italy in April this year and decided not to register with the authorities but to use un-orthodox means to get to the United Kingdom. "I heard that the Netherlands is not a good place to seek asylum. I don't want to live on the streets. I will try my luck in London," Ali lamented.

Ali was informed of Dutch passports for sale in The Hague. In my presence, Ali was told by an Ethiopian man in the Dutch administrative capital to bring a passport size photograph to identify a passport that resembles him. Within five days Ali managed to pocket a Dutch passport for a thousand euros.

"I called several of my relatives in Canada and Norway who each sent me some money and I managed to raise the amount. I know it's a bad thing but I am not planning to harm anyone. I just want a better life since my home country is inhabitable", Ali remarked while keenly looking at the photo attached to the passport.

Happily arrived

Ali will now have to courier back the passport after his arrival in his final destination: London. He went through Callais, France and crossed the border into the United Kingdom. Immigration officials on both sides of the border didn't notice any abnormality.

Keeping his promise to inform me on his progress of seeking asylum, Ali called me after seventeen days: "I am so happy. I have been accepted as a refugee here in the UK and all is well. I have also managed to send back the passport to the person who sold it to me. I hope it reaches him safely."

Being British
The Ethiopian man who only identified himself as Elamanyahu for fear of arrest by Dutch authorities said he has been involved in the fake passport business for several years. He has a Dutch resident permit.

According to Elamanyahu a passports are being sold for between three hundred and three thousand euros. British and Canadian passports are the most expensive ones (3,000 euros) followed by other euro zone passports.

"A fake one will cost you as less than 300 US dollars while a genuine European passport goes for between three hundred and three thousand euros, depending on the country. A genuine one, like the one Mohamed used, must be returned to the owner."

Weight lifted
 It's a risky business says Elamanyahu but most of his clients are understanding. They simply want to get out of the mess they are in. "On my part, I source for passports from other migrants who have been granted passports in Europe or any other Western country and the owner gets fifty per cent of the money while the rest is mine."

Ali is now in the UK under a different name and feels a heavy weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

The Netherlands is home to at least 27,000 Somalis who fled the violence in their home country. Most of them feel safe and welcome in the Netherlands.

I managed to speak with thirty Somalis in different areas of the Netherlands who have been granted refugee status. Almost all said they are grateful to the Dutch government and its people. However, most are worried of the instability in their home country and think they will go back if peace is realised in Somalia.

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